Sleep programs put providers in driver's seat

Friday, January 25, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – Shifting attitudes among transportation workers have created a growing market for sleep programs, say HME providers.

In January, Asheville, N.C.-based Aeroflow partnered with Enrollment First on a new sleep apnea management program. Enrollment First provides health insurance to independent truck drivers.

“There are studies that say from 30% to 50% of all commercial drivers suffer from some form of sleep disorder,” said Curtis Collins, industrial accounts manager for Aeroflow. “This is something that’s a major safety hazard that needs to be addressed.”

Aeroflow provides a full range of sleep services from testing to compliance tracking.

Telemedicine allows Aeroflow to handle the logistical challenges of working with a mobile population, and downloadable or wireless machines make it easy to track compliance data.

“There’s a good adjustment period during setup, but the ones that stick with it through those first couple of weeks see an improvement in their health and energy levels,” said Collins. “After they are setup, we want to make sure drivers are staying on top of their treatment. We keep drivers on track and keep on top of it with them.”

Historically, truckers have been reluctant to get tested for sleep apnea, fearing that a diagnosis will mean losing their job, providers say. However, greater public awareness about sleep health and a spate of lawsuits involving fatal truck crashes that have resulted in multi-million dollar judgments are turning the tide, they say.

Once the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues its long-awaited guidelines for testing and treating sleep apnea in truckers—they were expected at the end of 2012—trucking firms that haven’t already done so will have further incentive to implement sleep programs, providers say.

“The guidelines will move it closer to a standard of care, and it will be standard practice in the industry,” said says Dana Voizen, president of SleepSafe Drivers, a Laguna Nigel, Calif.-based sleep management provider. “The fleets that have already been doing this have seen improvements in accident costs and employee turnover. ‘They have come out and said, ‘There’s no doubt, our drivers are healthier and safer.’”