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Video Visits for Insomnia Less Effective than Live Consults

A pre-programmed video visit to treat chronic insomnia produces less positive results than live consults with providers.

Pre-programmed video visits are less effective than live consults for treating insomnia

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

A study out of the University of North Texas (UNT) found that online video visits to receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for chronic insomnia were less effective than receiving treatment directly from a therapist or similar provider.

Researchers monitored the sleep patterns of about 100 soldiers at Fort Worth to determine the overall effectiveness of video-based CBT in treating chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia in veterans and those serving in the military can be an early indicator of PTSD. Online CBT provides patients with easy and flexible access to therapy and does not interfere with their working and family lives.

"The online program can also be done from home rather than at a military behavioral health clinic, which some service members may avoid due to concerns about stigma," said Kristi Pruiksma, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

One third of the participants met with clinicians at Fort Hood for cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia once a week for six weeks, while another third received the therapy via the Internet for the same amount of time. Both the in-person and Internet therapy had the exact same content, with the Internet lessons presented as audio recordings accompanied by visual graphics and animations.

A third control group of participants was contacted by the researchers every other week during the six weeks, but did not receive cognitive behavioral therapy.

Generally, patients who received CBT of any sort had better sleep patterns and less chronic symptoms than patients who had no CBT at all.

The study was conducted by Daniel Taylor, University of North Texas professor of psychology and director of UNT's Sleep Health Research Laboratory.

He received a $1.16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for the study, which was affiliated with the STRONG STAR Consortium, a federally funded network of experts seeking the best ways to treat behavioral health problems that impact post 9/11 service members and veterans.

Emerging telemedicine solutions that address psychiatric and behavioral health have the potential to provide a live specialist, through online accessibility, to treat chronic insomnia.

Telepsychiatry presents itself as a way to provide on-demand therapy for patients, and a medium that helps ease the burden schools, businesses, jails, emergency departments, and other institutions that may need access to behavioral specialists.

The use of telemedicine helps emergency departments because of its wide array of care applications, and even has recently been utilized as a way to treat preventable psychiatric cases before they end up in an ED. Telemedicine has applications outside of online exercises: it’s a pathway between immediate and preventative care.

Healthcare organizations and hospitals can have a significant impact in delivering telemedicine care to patients, and access to care in general, by investing in telemedicine that meets patients in their homes and local communities. These institutions could attempt the same outreach, but with telebehavioral platforms that treat chronic mental health conditions.


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