Covidien drives sleep testing

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It’s no secret that drowsy drivers, and drowsy truck drivers in particular, are a disaster waiting to happen. Scan the headlines. Trucking companies are doling out millions of dollars in compensatory damages to victims of drivers who’ve nodded off while driving.

Problem is, these truck drivers can’t quite bring themselves to the sleep lab. So, given a partnership between Covidien and Sleep Pointe, a sleep apnea management company, the sleep lab is going to them.

Starting this summer, these two companies and a network of 15 HME providers, will station mobile sleep labs in trucks stops across America. These 53-foot trailers look like a trucker’s trailer. They’re outfitted with private bedrooms, bathrooms and a fully functional sleep technician’s room.

Beyond trucking companies, Sleep Pointe is talking to airlines, railroads, the operators of oil rigs and other organizations whose drowsy employees exact great costs from the healthcare system.

Last month, we spoke with Andrew Ray, vice president, global general manager of sleep and oxygen for Covidien about “Unite to Treat Sleep Apnea” and this new wellness program with Sleep Pointe.

HME News: What are the different pieces in “Unite to Treat Sleep Apnea?”

Andrew Ray: There’s us, there’s the patient and there’s the HME. How do we unite and not hurt anyone in the process? What’s the right balance in terms of a clinical advancement and a business advancement? While a manufacturer can produce a great product, if there is not the corresponding benefit to the channel-the HME-then it’s not going to work.

HME: How did you get from Unite to mobile sleep labs?

Ray: Through Unite, we looked at what segment is not being properly serviced-not through anyone’s fault but because they are a difficult or hard to treat population. We started to talk to a few HMEs who started to talk about transportation. They shared with us a big problem-that 28% of over-the-road truckers have sleep apnea. But they’re hard to reach.

HME: How did you come up with the sleep lab in a depot idea?

Ray: We met Duke (Naipohn, president and CEO, Sleep Pointe), and he said, “I have a solution. I am going to build a series of mobile sleep labs. I am going to park this in a depot. As the drivers come in, they spend a night in my lab, they get diagnosed and they’re back in their truck the next day.”

HME: How many trucking companies are committed to screening their drivers?

Ray: Duke has five trucking companies committed. He has committed contracts for 30,000 drivers.

HME: How will HMEs be involved?

Ray: (Duke) is building a network of HMEs around the country, 10 to 15 strategically located HMEs. He is saying, “I need a partner. I am not an HME.” We’ve been working with them to get them teed up on our devices.