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Volume 15 No. 09
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National Expansion of Sleep Telemedicine for Veterans: The TeleSleep Program

Kathleen F. Sarmiento, MD, MPH1,2; Robert L. Folmer, PhD3,4; Carl J. Stepnowsky, PhD5,6; Mary A. Whooley, MD1,2; Eilis A. Boudreau, MD, PhD3,7; Samuel T. Kuna, MD8,9,10; Charles W. Atwood, MD11,12; Connor J. Smith, MS13; W. Claibe Yarbrough, MD14,15
1San Francisco VA Healthcare System, San Francisco, California; 2Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California; 3VA Portland Healthcare System, Portland, Oregon; 4Department of Otolaryngology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon; 5VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, California; 6Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California; 7Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon; 8Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 9Division of Sleep Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 10Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 11VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 12Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 13Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon; 14Dallas VA Medical Center, Dallas, Texas; 15Department of Medicine, UT Southwestern School of Medicine, Dallas, Texas

Study Objectives:

(1) Review the prevalence and comorbidity of sleep disorders among United States military personnel and veterans. (2) Describe the status of sleep care services at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities. (3) Characterize the demand for sleep care among veterans and the availability of sleep care across the VHA. (4) Describe the VA TeleSleep Program that was developed to address this demand.


PubMed and Medline databases (National Center for Biotechnology Information, United States National Library of Medicine) were searched for terms related to sleep disorders and sleep care in United States military and veteran populations. Information related to the status of sleep care services at VHA facilities was provided by clinical staff members at each location. Additional data were obtained from the VA Corporate Data Warehouse.


Among United States military personnel, medical encounters for insomnia increased 372% between 2005–2014; encounters for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) increased 517% during the same period. The age-adjusted prevalence of sleep disorder diagnoses among veterans increased nearly 6-fold between 2000–2010; the prevalence of OSA more than doubled in this population from 2005–2014.


Most VA sleep programs are understaffed for their workload and have lengthy wait times for appointments. The VA Office of Rural Health determined that the dilemma of limited VHA sleep health care availability and accessibility might be solved, at least in part, by implementing a comprehensive telehealth program in VA medical facilities. The VA TeleSleep Program is an expansion of telemedicine services to address this need, especially for veterans in rural or remote regions.


Sarmiento KF, Folmer RL, Stepnowsky CJ, Whooley MA, Boudreau EA, Kuna ST, Atwood CW, Smith CJ, Yarbrough WC. National expansion of sleep telemedicine for veterans: the telesleep program. J Clin Sleep Med. 2019;15(9):1355–1364.

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