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Hospitals Waking Up to Sleep Centers

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 16, 2011
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For patients who screen positive for OSA, follow-up and treatment are optional, he says. But patients who are at high risk for OSA are “strongly encouraged to see a sleep specialist and get tested for it when discharged from the hospital,” he says.

“It’s a constant process of improvement for the patents being screened,” he says. “We’ve increased business in the sleep lab. We are going to see a larger percentage but need to do more.” One of the major areas of improvement involves not only educating the public, but also the staff about sleep apnea.

Success Key No. 2: Partnerships

Hospitals are teaming up with specialty sleep centers to develop programs for greater ROI and improved patient outcomes. For patients, it allows them to receive sleep care in familiar surroundings with their existing providers.

Nelson, the Graymark CEO, says his sleep centers can offer hospitals specialized services that would otherwise not be available in certain communities, such as diagnostic testing, treatment, and follow-up.

Sleep specialists say one of the big difficulties in continuing care for programs such as sleep apnea is having patients wear the CPAP mask. Many hospitals do not have extended education programs that help patients with the mask, or follow-up, Nelson says. Nationwide, only about 60% of patients assigned the masks wear them long enough to control their sleep apnea. Working with hospitals and having an extensive follow-up program has resulted in at least 80% compliance, he says.

“We manage the facility in the field, and they want to partner with people who have that specialty,” Nelson says of hospitals. “That’s really our niche—the diagnosis of people with sleep disorders. By teaming up with hospitals, Graymark has found that there is much higher compliance with use of the masks, he says.

“With us, they have found higher compliance in using the [CPAP mask] to help the patient from start to finish.”

Hospitals maintain contact with the patient through a five-year cycle of CPAP use. “Service is provided to the patient and they are building loyalty as well, and they keep coming back to the hospital,” he says.

“We’re going to take care of the patient from start to finish, and that’s appealing for the hospitals,” Nelson says. “We are involved in the diagnostic process, and also are involved in therapy immediately following the CPAP; we reach out and contact the patient three or four times in the first 30 days. The first 30 days are critical.”

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