Here at EnsoData we’re on a mission to learn as much as we can about Sleep Medicine. We want our products to seamlessly assist our end-users and add value to their night-to-night life. So we attended some of the sessions at this year’s AAST Annual Meeting in Indianapolis to find out what’s buzzing with sleep technologists and understand the key issues affecting the industry. Here were some of our favorite takeaways.
One of the issues abuzz at AAST was the growing pressure across the industry to keep up with CPAP compliance. “OSA is the only chronic disease were we take away needed treatment for the non-compliant” said one session speaker. The push toward sharing more patient data through EMRs is only going to increase the visibility and accountability of DME’s to educate their users, but increasingly that job is also on clinics.
How can sleep technologists help keep compliance up? One way is to correctly identify and recommend over-the-mouth CPAP devices for the “mouth breathers” among us. The more comfortable the device for the user, the more likely they are to stick with it. Educating patients at the clinic on proper CPAP usage is also a crucial step that is often left up to the DME manufacturers. One speaker, Vikas Jan M.D. sparked a healthy discussion in his session, “CPAP – All Pain and No Gain?” on some of the underlying issues that ultimately decrease CPAP compliance and efficacy.
Sleep Medicine in the Larger Healthcare Framework
One of the most comprehensive sessions was given by Jessica Schmidt, Senior Administrator at Medstar Georgetown University. She gave a birds eye view on some of the emerging trends for Sleep Medicine in the larger health care framework.
Digital solutions in hospital systems are catching up with other industries. 23% of hospital systems offer telehealth services, 20% now give online estimates, and 43% already offer some kind of private messaging system to allow patients to get in touch with physicians. With big players like Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan getting behind a starshot initiative to revolutionize healthcare, staying competitive in the digital age is more crucial than ever.
Ten years ago, there was a boom in new sleep clinics. Today, Schmidt says, “we’re in a quality growth phase”. In this segment, I thought she echoed the same sentiment shared by the AAST’s vision of increasing the quality and education of Technologists. The role of sleep medicine professionals as physician extenders is evolving quickly, and highly qualified sleep techs are in hot demand.
When Shmidt asked the audience if they had experienced a death in their sleep lab, about 5 people raised their hand. Citing her own experience with this scenario, she highlighted the problem of burnout and lack of engagement some sleep labs are reporting. A big part of this problem comes down to “Alarm Fatigue”. When critical alarms are too obtuse, it results in a low signal-to-noise ratio, which ultimately diminishes there efficacy. This puts technicians in danger of desensitization, leading them to turn down the volume or mute critical alarms.
Managing Complex Patients
In his session about Managing Complex Patients, Matthew Anastasi detailed some of the lessons and solutions he’s learned in caring for patients with Severe Obesity. High acuity patients present the most risk to Sleep Technologists, but it’s crucial not to deny care if at all possible. Covering all your bases when caring for a high acuity patient comes with a lot of blind spots. He stressed that it’s the Sleep Technologists job to ensure the accuracy of information reported by patients with co-morbidities, and offered several documents that folks could bring back to their managers to help them reshape their model of care to permit the intake, preparation, and accommodation of these patients.
AAST was a great opportunity to understand the key issues facing sleep technologists in today’s market. There’s a need and desire to spend more time communicating, educating, and ultimately caring for every patient, including high acuity patients, that go to sleep clinics to get treated. Sleep Technologists need tools they can rely on to get the information, so they can spend more time managing complex patients, and helping those prescribed CPAP therapy to comfortably use and maintain their devices. The quality growth phase of Sleep Medicine is underway!