Study to measure how sleep tracking can improve patient-provider communication

Although a number of patients receive treatment for sleep issues in primary care practices, the majority of this tracked sleep data never reaches healthcare providers. In response to this gap in patient-provider communication, the National Sleep Foundation and Merck, in collaboration with the Regenstrief Institute, will conduct a study to determine whether sleep trackers can be used to improve dialogue around sleep.

"The primary objective of the study is to determine if a program using a commercially available sleep tracker can be used to improve physician-patient dialogue regarding sleep," said Babar Khan, MD, who will lead the project.

Roughly 2 out of 3 U.S. adults gather personal data on at least one health indicator through the use of tracking devices and apps, according to a Pew Research survey. Additionally, industry analysts estimate more than 30 million Americans have access to their sleep data.

The research participants will consist of 210 patients with insomnia and their Indianapolis-based primary care providers. To maintain a continuous flow of real-time sleep information over the course of the study, the participants will use the National Sleep Foundation's SleepLife program.

The tool will combine sleep data from Fitbit wearable devices into SleepLife's interface. Researchers will then measure participants' results through objective data collected through the tracker and will also gather subjective data through questionnaires.

"This study will provide insight into the utility of consumer sleep monitoring devices for the incorporation of sleep as a vital sign in the primary care setting," Michael Paskow, director of scientific affairs and research at the National Sleep Foundation, said. "Delivering relevant sleep information to providers in a streamlined fashion is paramount to encouraging communication about sleep and helping people get a better night's sleep sooner."

The study results are expected to create a model for further research to explore a new paradigm for patient-provider communication as well as integrate patient-generated data through applications and wearable technology into primary care.

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