Sleep centers rest assured: Referrals will continue to fuel growth

Sunday, September 25, 2005

YARMOUTH, Maine - Continued growth in the CPAP market should rise 15% or more over the next 12 months, with cardiologists playing a bigger role in patient referrals, according to a report released last week by Wachovia Securities.

In a testament to the sleep market's growth, the 37 sleep centers that responded to the survey reported while they continue to add bed capacity, significant backlogs of patients still exist.

This is the third Wachovia Sleep Center Survey; the others were published in March 2005 and September 2004.

In the survey, labs reported that they expected to increase bed capacity by 33% over the next 12 months, compared to 27% during the past 12 months. The centers expect that increased capacity to decrease the average wait time for a sleep study from the current 3.9 weeks to 2.6 weeks in a year.

With more medical specialists becoming aware of sleep apnea and its treatment, the market's growth comes as no surprise, Wachovia reported.

Pulmonologists and primary care physicians still comprise the bulk to referrals (33% and 22%, respectively). Cardiologists generate 11% of referrals currently, but 53% of the centers reported that referrals from cardiologists increased last year, and 77% expect referrals from cardiologists to increase in the year ahead. Wachovia attributed the jump in referrals from cardiologists to an increase in published research showing the benefits of CPAP therapy to heart patients.

The centers also expected sharp increases in referrals from bariatric specialists over the next 12 months.

The most common comorbidities among sleep OSA patients are obesity and hypertension (65% and 45%, respectively). Other comorbidities include Type 2 diabetes and congestive heart failure.