Just like in any other industry, sleep centers have had to shift their practices to a more remote model wherever possible in the face of COVID-19. HSATs and disposables have increased, with dropship and curb-side pickup options available for safety and convenience. In-person appointments have waned as people have become open to using telehealth even for sleep concerns, and patients have become more and more averse to coming into the lab in person over the past year. Add to that additional protocols and processes that take extra time, and now some places don’t require masks if you’re vaccinated, but some still do, or they didn’t, but now there’s the Delta variant, so they do again, maybe I’ll just put it off… who really gets a decent night’s sleep anyway, right?
But sometimes patients need in-lab testing, or as is true in many cases, doing the sleep test at home is fine, but the patient may need to come in in-person for results, follow-up, or additional treatment. Many times, a face-to-face conversation is the only way a patient will understand what they need to do, or fully grasp the severity of their individual situation. Age and accessibility factors may also inhibit some patients from using certain technologies on their own. So how do sleep centers get patients back in the lab? We must emphasize the importance of sleep health.
Educate Patients on Sleep Apnea Risk
Sleep Apnea is a serious health disorder that effects an estimated 60 million Americans, but roughly 80% of them remain undiagnosed and untreated. If left untreated it’s a risk factor for other life-threatening disorders including diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Many patients are unaware of the seriousness of this disorder. Educating them of the risks of remaining undiagnosed and untreated could have a great impact on their willingness to come into the lab and address the issue.
Emphasize the Link Between OSA, Lack of Sleep and COVID-19 Risk
While coming into the lab may pose a small COVID risk, not coming into the lab could pose a much higher COVID risk. In addition to the standard health risks of undiagnosed, untreated Obtrusive Sleep Apnea (OSA), there is also a link between untreated OSA and a higher rate of COVID-19 infection. In a study by Kaiser Permanente Southern California, not only were apnea patients who used their CPAP often at a lower risk for COVID infection than those who don’t, but they were at a lower risk than patients without apnea at all. Less sleep and burnout in general, raises your risk for COVID infection and can result in longer recovery times as well.
Communicate COVID-19 Prevention Policies
Whether you require a mask currently, are asking patients to fill out COVID symptom questionnaires before arriving, and/or are taking temperatures and screening for COVID-related symptoms at the door, let your patients know what to expect. Make sure they’re aware of the precautions you’re taking around the sleep center and in the lab so they feel protected. Let them know ahead of time if they need to arrive early to allow for extra time. Give them space to ask questions if they have additional concerns. And remind them that you, their physicians and techs, are there in the lab as well, and that you wouldn’t be if it wasn’t safe.
By educating your patients on the risks of OSA, emphasizing the link between OSA and a lack of sleep and COVID-19, and communicating your COVID-19 prevention policies so your patients feel comfortable, you can significantly impact their willingness to come into the lab. Don’t let COVID overshadow the importance of sleep health!
For more information about how Somnoware can help you get patients back in the lab, visit our website at www.somnoware.com, or request a demo: