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Hospitals Waking Up to Sleep Centers

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 16, 2011
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Hospitals are finding an increasing market for sleep disorders, particularly sleep apnea linked to pulmonary conditions. As the nation gains weight and gets older, sleep disorders are becoming more frequent. Of 20 million to 40 million Americans who suffer from chronic sleep disorders, an overwhelming percentage—as much as 80%—have obstructive sleep apnea linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Hospitals are delivering multifaceted care in both inpatient and outpatient settings using both increased screening procedures and educational programs. In addition, hospitals anticipate many more patients; as many as 10 million people could have obstructive sleep apnea and not be aware of it, according to the American Association for Respiratory Care.

While CMS has reduced reimbursements for general sleep study programs, it has opened the door for funding for diagnosis of sleep apnea, particularly with home testing. That has prompted sleep experts to coordinate patient care with lab testing.

Obstructive sleep apnea can hasten death, as well as cause disease and disrupt normal life, but it responds dramatically to treatment.

“There is a significant increase in screening of this, and increases in the baby boomer population,” says Heidi O’Connor, MD, medical director for respiratory care at 212-licensed-bed New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, MA. “We’ve got an increasingly older baby boomer population, and we’re going to see more of it,” O’Connor says. “And there’s an awareness of it now.”

The hospital carries out a multidisciplinary approach in its pulmonary treatment program that includes care for sleep apnea at its sleep center, an outpatient sleep clinic, as well as a sleep studies program.

Stanton Nelson, chairman and CEO of Graymark Healthcare, based in Oklahoma City, OK, which operates independent sleep centers and also contracts with hospitals in the Midwest, says he foresees significant financial growth in the area of sleep apnea in the years ahead. Graymark Healthcare now provides care in 93 sleep centers in 11 states.

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