HME takes CPAP therapy to heart: marketing keys on cardiologists

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

OKLAHOMA CITY, Ok. — Breathing Disorder Services has embarked on a growth strategy and taken to heart new evidence that using CPAP to treat obstructive sleep apnea can also alleviate cardiac problems.

Since January, the sleep specialist has opened four new locations (Colorado Springs, Co.; Hemet, Calif., Kingman, Ariz.; and Greensboro, N.C.) to go with its existing locations in Oklahoma City, Houston, and South Hill, Va. The company’s strategy now is to market its services heavily to cardio-vascular specialists so as to capitalize on the huge numbers of people with heart disease who also have OSA.

“We are no longer just focusing on internal medicine and pulmonary physicians,” said CEO Andrew Macias. “The cardiologist is by far the most important referral source that we have targeted for the upcoming year.”

Macias’ strategy rests upon compelling clinical support. A recent Respironics study estimated that about one of every three patients with CHF has obstructive sleep apnea. Another study by ResMed found that effective CPAP therapy could reduce blood pressure by 10-mm of mercury.

“We call our new campaign for marketing ‘Four Questions from the Heart,’” Macias said. “Do you snore? Are you tired or sleepy during the day? Have you been told you have irregular breathing while sleeping? Do you have high blood pressure?”

Macias suspects that most patients with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure or people who have suffered stokes have never been asked those four questions.

Since launching Breathing Disorders in late 1999, Macias has worked to develop a sleep therapy program that incorporates disease state management techniques to improve compliance and generate referrals. Key to the program is providing patients with an hour or so of education on CPAP therapy and telling them what to expect. Breathing Disorders also starts most patients during the first two weeks of therapy on a high-end Smart CPAP as a way to monitor compliance (hours of usage, apnea/hypopnea episodes, and so forth).

That kind of tender loving care has garnered an 88.9% compliance rate, Macias claims, and an annual increase in CPAP referrals of 59%.

“It’s more costly to add all these extra measures,” Macias said. “But the bottom line is we continue to see an increase in referrals. That pays for the added services and added product we have to maintain.” HME