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Sleep Centers Awaken Profit, Competition

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, May 13, 2011
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While the value of a good night’s sleep is intangible, there may be a great deal of tangible value in opening a sleep center at your hospital or health system. The study of sleep goes beyond apnea; in the past decade, the number of people reporting sleep problems has increased nearly 13%, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The growing number of potential patients combined with the low start-up costs, minimal operating expenses, and high levels of reimbursement make this service line appealing.

Sleep medicine has been around since the 1970s, but it didn’t take off until the 1990s. Since then, the number of sleep labs or centers has grown to nearly 3,500 and approximately 2,200 of these centers are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

New studies continue to come out linking sleep disorders with increased risk of stroke, cardiac disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic disorders, and so on. The mounting research helps broaden the potential patient base for these centers. Making this an even more attractive addition to a hospital’s existing service line is that these can operate as an ancillary service, either in-house or as a satellite facility off campus. For billing, hospitals and health systems are able to use the same provider number without sacrificing their most expensive real estate—a hospital bed. 

Pursuing the dream

Back in 1985, Paul Brown, manager of noninvasive cardiology and sleep labs at Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, MI, vividly recalls launching the center’s first sleep lab—a single bed with an EEG machine located in the hospital, and offered as an outpatient service. Over the past 25 years, Genesys has steadily grown its sleep lab service line and now operates two off-campus locations, a 10-bed and a 4-bed.

Brown explains that as operations grew, Genesys moved its labs off-campus to help keep costs low and to provide a better site for patients. “It’s quieter, which is better for the patient,” he notes. “For hospitals that currently don’t have a sleep lab, this is something you should look into.”

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