Requirement restricts CPAP providers

Sunday, November 30, 2008

ATLANTA - The Georgia Medical Board in October confirmed that only licensed respiratory therapists can provide care and education to CPAP patients. Providers are generally in favor of the requirement, but they have a few concerns.
"It raises the bar to have licensed people distributing CPAPs," said Erick Parkhill, vice president of Atlanta-based Home Medical Professionals, which has respiratory therapists on staff. "Untrained people don't understand the adverse effects (of ill-fitting equipment)."
The rule states: "Individuals must be licensed in order to assess patients, develop care plans, provide education to patients or their families; or to size an interface device for CPAP, BiPAP, bi-level or any RAD with or without the home or sleep lab."
Most providers already employ RTs, Parkhill says, but they worry about the impact on sleep labs, which typically employ polysomnographic technicians. Parkhill met with the medical board this summer to encourage allowing sleep technicians to perform initial set-ups.
"The labs will have to make some type of decision on what types of employees they have," said Parkhill. "As far as DMEs, I doubt this will affect patient access."
Problems at the labs could trickle down to providers, worries Bill Cheek, an RT and COO of Monroe-based Carmichael Home Medical Equipment.
"It could cause a labor shortage at the labs, which will slow down the flow of referrals," he said.
The new rule is expected to take effect Jan. 1, but providers would like to know how the new requirement will be enforced.
"We were told they do have a policing arm within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation," said Todd Tyson, president of Norcross-based Hi-Tech Healthcare. "If someone has a complaint, GBI will investigate and issue a cease and desist. If they continue, they will hit them with a misdemeanor charge."