Referral streams begin to return, sleep providers say

Remote patient monitoring, home sleep testing expected to lessen the impact of pandemic going forward
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Friday, June 12, 2020

YARMOUTH, Maine – CPAP referrals dropped off when sleep labs temporarily closed at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but providers say things are picking back up.

When elective surgeries went away, so did many CPAP setups, says Jason Jones.

“In April and May, our CPAP set ups were lower than normal,” said Jones, president of Jones Medical Supply in Troy, Ala. “We’ve still been doing face-to-face set ups with proper precautions—temperature checks and those things. We’re staying on top of that, doing extra cleaning extra and making everyone feel welcome.”

Family Medical Supply experienced a 20% to 40% drop-off in CPAP referrals, much of it attributable to sleep labs temporarily closing, says Brad Heath.

But with American unemployment figures lingering in the double digits, people are worried about their pocketbooks, too, and that has also impacted referrals, says Heath.

“We saw some folks not sure if they could afford the co-pay and deductible,” said Heath, vice president of operations for the Dunn, N.C.-based provider.“(It can be a large) out-of-pocket expense.”

Providers do anticipate more buy in on remote patient monitoring and home sleep testing going forward, helping to lessen the pandemic’s impact on referrals.

“I think that will be a lot more interest—that’s an area that has always been dabbled in,” said Woody O’Neal, vice president of Pelham, Ala.-based O2 Neal Medical. “What we’d have to see for widespread acceptance is probably patients demanding it and we may have that demand now.”

Still, it’s important to remember successful sleep therapy is more than just drop-shipping and video consults, says Heath.

“Early indications are that you have higher compliance with real face-to-face interaction,” he said. “It’s easy to do drop-ship and do video, but if we are going to do it we have to be able to keep compliance rates. That’s one of the challenges.”