Sleep market embraces tech

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Seeking encouraging news among the chronic beleaguerment in the HME market can be a challenge, but one area where providers may find hope is with sleep therapy. As the category matures, awareness of obstructive sleep apnea is growing among the public and in the physician community, where more patients are being prescribed CPAP therapy.

VGM Respiratory, a division of Waterloo, Iowa-based VGM Group, has seen the growth firsthand.

“Family practice and internal medicine physicians, as well as nurse practitioners, are recognizing sleep therapy as a growing market,” said Dave Lyman, vice president of VGM Respiratory, nothing that there is much more data available on the treatment of sleep disorders than there has been in the past.

Data published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that the estimated prevalence rates of obstructive sleep apnea have increased substantially over the last two decades, most likely due to the obesity epidemic and it is now estimated that 26% of adults between the ages of 30 and 70 have sleep apnea. Yet this could be just the tip of the iceberg, as some data suggests that 100 million people worldwide have sleep apnea and that 80% remain undiagnosed.

“While awareness may be rising, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to diagnosis and treatment,” said Tom Catalano, director of global sleep therapy marketing for Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care. “This is not to say we aren’t on the right track—in fact, globally we’re seeing increased attention on sleep therapy and this is partially due to the many types of physicians who are becoming more interested in sleep.”

The high percentage of people with undiagnosed apnea serves as motivation for San Diego-based ResMed to continue broadcasting the message about OSA’s harmful health impact and its complex web of co-morbidities, said Amy Cook, marketing director of connected sleep devices.

“We are dedicated to getting the word out worldwide about how sleep apnea is directly linked to other life-threatening diseases like heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes; and how CPAP treatment helps reduce the risk and effects of those conditions while saving long-term costs,” Cook said.

On the whole, an expanding sleep therapy market is good news for the HME industry, but at the same time, providers need to be prepared to handle incrementally higher patient volumes, said Morgan Dopplick, director of resupply operations for Lawrenceville, Ga.-based Brightree.

“The continued patient growth our customers experience, despite a challenging healthcare climate, gives every indication that the area of sleep therapy continues its growth trajectory as patients continue to be diagnosed,” he said. “It’s imperative that HMEs have access to the right resupply programs and technology, as well as integration with sleep therapy equipment from key manufacturers, to meet their patient’s needs.”

Tech-compliance link

There is a strong connection between CPAP compliance and technological tools facilitating closer communication between patients and providers. Catalano sees patients becoming more interested in actively participating in their own care and that technology is playing a key role in helping them.

For instance, Phillips’ Care Orchestrator delivers patient data directly to care teams via smart phone, tablet or PC so that they can make informed clinical decisions in real time, which Catalano says “unites technologies, resources, people and information for helping millions of patients living with respiratory disease and sleep disorders.

Technology with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity has helped HME providers get the data easier and sooner to monitor compliance, Lyman added.

“It is proven that the sooner you can help the patient that is not compliant whether it is a pressure, mask or humidification issue, the better chance to get them compliant with the physician’s order,” he said. “Most manufacturers have online programs and videos to help providers, but it still comes down to the provider’s program on how well the respiratory therapist educates the patient on their disease state and equipment. Technology is a tool that complements clinical expertise.”

Newton, Mass.-based Human Design Medical has focused on technology that boosts compliance with Z1 CPAPs that are portable and feature Bluetooth connectivity.

“These features help patients and therapists to easily set the device and see their sleep data,” said Tom Miller, HDM’s general manager of sleep. “In addition, the Z1 does not require a special mask and hose.”

Cook cited a CHEST 2017 study that found that 87% of patients who were both remotely and self-monitoring were adherent on CPAP, compared to 50% to 60% not on a cloud-connected monitoring device.

“ResMed has 5 million patients worldwide on cloud-connected CPAPs that offer both remote patient monitoring and easy-to-use self-monitoring app, myAir, which gives patients access to their nightly CPAP data and personalized coaching for improving their sleep,” she said.

Besides helping increase compliance rates, technology is also instrumental in reducing provider costs, Dopplick said.

“With challenges facing the market and straining our customers’ resources, leveraging technology is key to reducing cost,” he said. “Technology must help HMEs improve accuracy and efficiency while maximizing their revenue opportunities during the ordering process. It’s also essential that these tools enable low-touch, easy-to-use options for order fulfillment as well as providing downstream benefits in claims processing and both patient and payer collections. By leveraging technology, a provider can truly optimize the patient resupply lifecycle of an order while reducing cost, allowing them to focus more on patient care.”

Another key provider cost that technology is addressing concerns retrieving equipment for patients who fail to meet the minimum usage threshold, said Brian Palmer, senior global product manager for Somerset, Pa.-based Drive DeVilbiss.

“Newer CPAP devices have algorithms that can determine if CPAP is even the right therapy for some apnea patients,” he said. “Patients with periodic breathing or central apnea may not feel better after using therapy, so they may stop using it.