Sleep Medicine Strives to Unite Multiple Disciplines

By Splete, Heidi | Clinical Psychiatry News, March 2008 | Go to article overview

Sleep Medicine Strives to Unite Multiple Disciplines


Splete, Heidi, Clinical Psychiatry News


MINNEAPOLIS -- The need to unite sleep specialists from multiple academic departments challenges the field of sleep medicine, Dr. Ronald D. Chervin said at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

"Because sleep is relevant to so many different departments, there is not always good integration across campus," said Dr. Chervin, a professor of sleep medicine at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Dr. Chervin is also a professor of neurology and the director of the university's sleep disorders center.

For example, a sleep scientist may not rub elbows daily with a pulmonologist or ENT specialist, he said.

The structural challenges that persist at many research universities can make interdisciplinary integration difficult, even though such integration may be the way to provide the best patient care, Dr. Chervin noted.

But the tug-of-war persists between clinician desires to provide good multidisciplinary care versus departmental concerns for the bottom line.

Most sleep specialists agree that patients receive the best care when they see clinicians from a variety of medical fields, Dr. Chervin said. But sharing human resources is not always a priority for any given academic department, and it is not always easy to give up billing opportunities to another department in order to serve a higher goal and allow faculty to pursue diverse interests, he explained.

The role of sleep medicine can be difficult to explain to administrators and faculty outside the field, in part because there often is inadequate investment in sleep medicine specifically.

For example, even at the University of Michigan, which has a large and successful sleep disorders center, there is no administrator dedicated to sleep medicine to help the director manage budgets and financial spreadsheets, "which we are not trained in medical school to do," Dr. Chervin said. Also, billing and hiring issues still create interdepartmental friction. "I'm proud of our faculty here at Michigan, but we have lost some opportunities to hire qualified personnel because of these departmental issues," he said. …

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