Development of a Sleep Telementorship Program for Rural Department of Veterans Affairs Primary Care Providers: Sleep Veterans Affairs Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes
RATIONALE: Primary care providers (PCPs) frequently encounter sleep complaints, especially in regions with limited specialty care access.
OBJECTIVES: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (VA-ECHO) program (based on Project ECHO) has successfully provided rural PCP education in subspecialty areas, including hepatitis C. We describe the feasibility of an ECHO program for sleep medicine.
METHODS: ECHO creates a virtual learning community through video-teleconferencing, combining didactics with individualized clinical case review. We invited multidisciplinary providers to attend up to 10 stand-alone, 1-hour sessions. Invitees completed a needs assessment, which guided curriculum development. After program completion, we examined participant characteristics and self-reported changes in practice and comfort with managing sleep complaints. We surveyed participation barriers among invitees with low/no attendance.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Of the 39 program participants, 38% worked in rural healthcare. Participants included nurse practitioners (26%), registered nurses (21%), and physicians (15%). Seventeen (44%) completed the summative program evaluation. Respondents anticipated practice change from the program, especially in patient education about sleep disorders (93% of respondents). Respondents reported improved comfort managing sleep complaints, especially sleep-disordered breathing, insomnia, and sleep in post-traumatic stress disorder (80% of respondents each). A follow-up survey of program invitees who attended zero to two sessions reported scheduling conflicts (62%) and lack of protected time (52%) as major participation barriers.
CONCLUSIONS: Participants in a pilot sleep medicine VA-ECHO program report practice change and increased comfort managing common sleep complaints. Future work is needed to identify objective measures of return on investment and address participation barriers.
Parsons EC, Mattox EA, Beste LA, Au DH, Young BA, Chang MF, Palen BN. Development of a Sleep Telementorship Program for Rural Department of Veterans Affairs Primary Care Providers: Sleep Veterans Affairs Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2017 Feb;14(2):267-274. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201605-361BC. PMID: 27977293.