Poll: United on sleep screening, divided on regulation

‘Transportation workers should be screened, but (it shouldn’t be a) carte blanche,’ said one respondent
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Friday, September 15, 2017

YARMOUTH, Maine – Requiring transportation workers to get screened for sleep apnea is a “no brainer,” say respondents to a recent HME Newspoll.

“Anyone who drives on an interstate highway can only hope that the long-haul truckers around them don’t have OSA,” wrote one respondent. “This is a no-brainer question.”

In line with a Trump administration that has pledged to slash regulations, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in August that they would scrap a regulation to require testing for certain commercial drivers and rail workers.

That’s short sighted, say 87% of poll respondents.

“The prevalence of OSA in the general population indicates significant risk factors for professional driers, pilots, heavy equipment operators, etc.,” said Steven DeYoung of Elliot Hospital Home Medical Equipment in Manchester, N.H. “An analysis of accident data by the NTSB (which under-reports sleep reported accidents) shows somnolence as a significant contributor to a high number of accidents with this cohort.”

At the same time, poll respondents say it’s important not to paint too broad a brush.

“I believe that any transportation workers that spends most of their time driving on highways and has signs or symptoms of sleep issues should be screened, but (it shouldn’t be a) carte blanche,” wrote Rich Waltman of HealthCare Plus in Polson, Mont.

Other respondents don’t think a federal regulation, which they worry could be burdensome for drivers and the companies that employ them, is the answer.

“I think that requiring transportation workers to get regular physicals and to be compliant with any subsequent physician orders should be adequate, as long as the physicians don’t rubber stamp the form,” wrote Lori Sears of Active Home Medical Supply in Lapeer, Mich. “Advocate that physicians become more proactive at screening all of their patients for risk factors—don’t single out a single group and force it.”

Fortunately, awareness of sleep disorders is on the rise, say 91% of poll respondents.

“More primary care physicians are screening their patients,” wrote one poll respondent. “And, just as important, as more people are diagnosed and treated, they talk about it with friends and family, as well as via social media and the Internet.”