Sleep centers rest easy: Referrals continue to fuel growth

Monday, October 31, 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 in September by Wachovia Securities.
The 37 sleep centers that responded to the survey reported that, while they continue to add bed capacity, backlogs of patients still exist.
By some estimates, the Wachovia's estimate of the CPAP market is conservative. Sleep manufacturer Resmed, for example, estimates that the sleep market is growing 18% to 20% a year, and in 2004, Medicare expenditures for CPAP jumped 31%.
Increased public awareness has helped grow the market for CPAP. The market continues to be constrained, however, due to public ignorance regarding OSA, how much insurers are willing to spend and lengthy backlogs at sleep labs, say industry watchers.
In the Wachovia survey, labs reported that they expected to increase bed capacity by 33% over the next 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.
Pulmonologists and primary care physicians still comprise the bulk of 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. The centers also expected increased referrals from bariatric specialists over the next 12 months.