Monday, June 30, 2003

CHICAGO – The principal of an HME company exhibiting at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies 17th Annual Meeting calls sleep medicine “a pioneering field.” And as the lone provider booth at APSS in early June, Greg Schoonover, managing director for Health Technology Resources, is something of a pioneer himself.

The Northbrook, Ill.-based home sleep care provider set up a booth this year specifically to meet with sleep physicians and introduce them to the latest in home-based sleep therapy products and techniques.

“Our objective is to educate the medical community about new technology, new treatment modalities and how homecare providers can achieve the outcomes they’re looking for,” Schoonover said.

Although classified as an HME company, Health Technology Resources has focused solely on sleep therapy, providing CPAP, bi-level CPAP and oxygen to patients with sleep disorders. And while cardiologists and pulmonologists are generally knowledgeable about the products and treatments available for homecare patients, they were surprised to learn about the three-year-old company’s market approach, Schoonover said.

“Many physicians told us they thought it was unique that we put all our marbles in one basket,” he said.

The climate for sleep medicine is energized, according to APSS show organizers. The major networks all brought in camera crews, exhibitors have proliferated and educational offerings have expanded, they say. All of these developments are positive signs, said Kathleen McCann, public relations coordinator for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which co-sponsors the show with the Sleep Research Society.

“ABC, NBC and CBS were here and it’s the first time they’ve all come,” she said. “There’s more interest from more angles. Sleep is a hot topic because it affects everyone of all age groups, races and genders.”

Of particular interest is a series of recent reports linking sleep disorders with congestive heart failure, hypertension and stroke. As causal effects between unhealthy sleep patterns and life-threatening disease become more established, the sleep industry should see a tremendous boost in patients, said Greg Carter, MD, a Dallas-based neurologist and sleep specialist.

“We’ve already seen how the obesity epidemic is linked to diabetes and it’s also a big factor for apnea,” Carter said. “Insomnia is on the rise. Overall, the public is becoming much more aware of these conditions and seeking treatment.”

Still, a lack of reimbursement for home-based sleep therapy continues to be a barrier in the market’s growth, noted Jay Vreeland, global product manager for sleep therapy devices at Respironics. HME