Sleep Center Director Gets $250K Grant to Evaluate Telemedicine Consults for Insomnia Patients

University of Arizona Professor Sairam Parthasarathy, MD, is among three recipients announced recently as winners of American Sleep Medicine Foundation (ASMF) Strategic Research Awards to evaluate how telemedicine can play a role in the delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).

“Since we know at least 50 percent of all medicine will be administered via telemedicine in the future—that’s in the year 2020 and beyond—the question is if telemedicine-based delivery would be more convenient for the patient; whether for some, it has a better effect; and if therapy for insomnia doesn’t necessarily need to be administered in person. That’s the objective of the study,” said Dr. Parthasarathy

He is interim chief for the UA Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine; director of the UA Health Sciences Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences, and medical director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson. He also has served on several national committees and editorial boards of publications related to sleep medicine.

The ultimate aim is to keep insomnia patients—who may suffer from multiple other health disorders due to lack of sleep—healthier and out of the hospital by improving their sleep patterns, Dr. Parthasarathy added.

“There is great potential for telemedicine to improve access to high quality care for patients with insomnia and other sleep disorders,” said ASMF President Jennifer L. Martin, PhD. “I congratulate the recipients of the American Sleep Medicine Foundation’s Strategic Research Award, and I am confident that their research will give us a better understanding of how telemedicine can be used to improve the delivery of care for patients with sleep disorders.”

The goals of the Strategic Research Award program are to foster health services research and patient-oriented research in sleep medicine, improve outcomes for patients with sleep disorders, and demonstrate the value of diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. This round of awards involved a focused request for applications to study the role of telemedicine in the evaluation and management of patients with sleep disorders using the AASM SleepTM system, a new telemedicine system that’s HIPAA-compliant and enables clinicians to conduct video visits easily and securely.

Projects selected for funding will receive up to $250,000 over two years.

Dr. Parthasarathy’s project—“Non-Inferiority Study of Telemedicine vs. Conventional CBT-I in Recently Hospitalized Patients with Insomnia”—involves a comparative effectiveness study addressing insomnia in recently hospitalized patients. They will compare CBT-I administered by telemedicine versus conventional office-based CBT-I on insomnia severity. They also will measure patient satisfaction. This project aims to evaluate whether insomnia represents a modifiable risk factor for re-hospitalization in patients who are recently discharged, using telemedicine as a way to improve access to care for this vulnerable population.

His research team includes Stefano Guerra, MD, PhD, MPH, UA associate professor of medicine and public health, and associate research scientist at the UAHS Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center; Michael Grandner, PhD, UA assistant professor of medicine, psychiatry and psychology, and director of the UA Department of Psychiatry’s Sleep and Healthy Research Program; Tucker Peck, PhD, UA adjunct professor and clinical psychologist; and Leo Bustamante and Chris Morton, research specialists, UAHS Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences.

Up to 85 recently discharged patients from Banner – UMC Tucson and South will be recruited for enrollment in the study in the next few months. Research will be done at the UAHS Center for Sleep and Circadian Studies, 2033 E. Speedway Blvd., Suite 203, with initial screenings there and follow-up via telehealth visits. The goal is to reduce readmissions of patients who often suffer from other illnesses complicated by their insomnia. For details, call (520) 626-8457 or view this flyer [PDF].

Dr. Parthasarathy spoke at the May 3 Living Healthy with Arthritis lecture on the “Healing Power of Sleep,” the Feb. 22 Medicine Grand Rounds on “Nocturnal Positive Airway Pressure Therapies for COPD” (see the video), and the Nov. 10, 2016, DOM Research Seminar on “Sleep, Clocks and Inflammation” (see the video).

The other principal investigators and their projects to be funded are:

  • J. Todd Arnedt, PhD, University of Michigan: “CBT for Insomnia Delivered via AASM SleepTM or Face-to-face: A Non-Inferiority Trial”
    Dr. Arnedt’s project will directly compare the benefits and costs of CBT-I delivered via the AASM SleepTM platform with gold-standard, face-to-face CBT-I therapy sessions. Data will be gathered comparing patient credibility and satisfaction across the two modalities. Findings from this study have the potential to directly impact future insomnia treatment delivery and improve access to CBT-I for the multitude of insomnia patients who currently remain untreated.
  • Philip Gehrman, PhD, University of Pennsylvania: “Telemedicine vs. In-Person Delivery of CBT of Insomnia: A Mixed Methods Analysis”
    Dr. Gehrman’s project will compare the efficacy of individual CBT-I delivered in-person to delivery via telemedicine for patients with chronic insomnia. In addition to traditional patient-reported outcomes for clinical efficacy, qualitative interviews will be conducted to obtain feedback from patients on their preferences and satisfaction with care. Using a mixed methods approach, this project seeks to demonstrate how process outcomes in patients using telemedicine are similar to those of patients receiving in-person care.

The ASMF is a not-for-profit charitable and scientific organization established in 1998 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). As a leader in supporting sleep research and education, the foundation has invested in the future of sleep medicine by distributing more than $9 million in awards to support important projects to promote sleep health. More information about the ASMF award programs is available at 

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“UA-Led Team Receives PCORI Engagement Award for Patient-Centered SLEEP2 Project” | Posted Sept. 21, 2016
“UA Research Dream Team for Treating Sleep Disorders Present Findings at SLEEP 2016” | Posted June 27, 2016

Release Date: 
05/18/2017 - 6:15pm