Products & Technology

Turning the Key of Sleep Success

Investing in the right tools to automate your business and keep track of both patient and operational metrics could help your business unlock expanded success in the sleep market. If you cannot report regularly on these elements and share them with healthcare professionals and payors, sooner or later you will be left out in the cold.

sleep marketProviding sleep therapy solutions has been a tricky business, but offers considerable opportunity. The sleep industry has seen dramatic changes over the past years, with data pointing toward growth as it taps into the undiagnosed patient population. They question is, how do providers take advantage of that growth while still riding out any marketplace challenges? They key lies in measurement and automation.

“Sleep has really come into the mainstream focus with news reports of increasing car accidents, mandatory sleep testing for different careers, such as truck drivers and pilots, and increased awareness of health conditions affected by sleep,” says Angela Giudice, RPSGT, director of clinical sales and education for 3B Medical, Inc. “Patients are more aware of the risks and are now actively seeking ways to achieve better, healthier sleep.”

According to a 2015 survey of U.S. sleep centers conducted by Needham & Company (www.sleepreviewmag.com), patient testing volume increased by 7.5 percent over the past 12 months from when respondents were surveyed (June to August 2015), with respondents expecting even higher volumes over the next year. Home monitoring is a particularly compelling growth opportunity for HMEs.

Regarding another study, Giudice says data suggested that the sleep disordered breathing market is increasing with an annual growth rate of 4 percent to 6 percent, while a report published by Grand View Research in December 2015 pegs growth of this market at 7 percent. However, competitive bidding has seen contraction in the number of HME providers and significant consolidation, she says.

“The state of the sleep industry is strong and growing, but HME providers are also facing the problem of doing more with fewer resources,” says Mark D’Angelo, sleep business leader for Philips Respironics. “Reimbursement policies are changing while the technology available is constantly evolving. The successful companies are the ones that can navigate this uncharted territory, embrace patients’ new questions and demands, and keep innovating in ways to efficiently support patients as they seek long-term compliance in sleep therapy.”

Sleep and Technology

When it comes to the fundamentals of sleep business success, embracing technology to help run and grow your business is of utmost importance.

“Like the healthcare industry itself, the sleep business has become more digital and data-driven, and in some cases our industry is ahead of the curve,” says Greg Peake, president of ResMed’s Sleep-Disordered Breathing Global Business Unit. “A recent report on mHealth and home monitoring from Berg Insight (iotbusinessnews.com), for example, recognized remote monitoring in the sleep therapy segment as growing at the fastest rate compared to any other market. The report projected that in 2016 sleep will surpass remote cardiac rhythm monitoring, which has traditionally been the largest market segment.”

Remote patient monitoring and data collection are two important trends that have helped shape the evolving sleep business, Peake says. Remote monitoring benefits HMEs, patients and clinicians. Connected healthcare solutions are proven to advance patient engagement, increase efficiency and streamline processes for providers, thereby reducing costs and enabling more time on patient care and less time on paperwork.

“Technology in the sleep business has boomed, and testing has become easier with smaller devices and more treatment options offered,” Giudice says. “HME sleep providers now have a plethora of sleep testing options, from attended PSG to home sleep testing. HST devices even vary in data they capture and can be tailored to exactly what HME and physicians prefer. Because of the popularity and accessibility of current options, HME providers can make smarter choices in diagnostic and treatment options. Gone are the days of only having one or two brands of equipment to choose from.”

Connected health technology is becoming the standard across the health continuum, and sleep therapy is no exception, says D’Angelo. As the HME sleep industry continue to shift toward an outcomes-driven reimbursement model, technology can help HMEs better keep track of their patients, as well as their own business needs.

“Modern HME sleep providers should consider exploring an integrated solution, one that helps them stay virtually connected with their patient,” he says. “With effective technology in place, HMEs can coach patients from afar and move toward an effective, efficient process for helping patients comply with therapy while reducing touch points and streamlining the billing process.”

Peake says that the most important technology is the right equipment for effective therapy. Leading masks and devices with the greatest chance of patient success, along with tools to focus efforts on the patients who need it most, will have the greatest benefit. This is where connectivity and healthcare informatics solutions are revolutionizing patient management, he says.

“In this sense, technology has helped modernize the sleep business,” Peake says. “Patient management platforms, like ResMed’s U-Sleep and AirView, analyze therapy data collected by smart, connected devices and can determine which patients require the most attention and when. Monitoring and coaching patients via postcards and cold calls has given way to a modern practice, in which HMEs can remotely monitor patient usage through these web-based applications and intervene if problems arise. Not only does this allow HMEs to reach patients on their own terms and get a better picture of how their patients are doing, but it also helps to streamline their businesses by focusing resources on the patients who need it most.”

Peake pointed out that a recently published study of ResMed’s U-Sleep (link.springer.com) was found to reduce the amount of labor associated with intervening and coaching CPAP patients by 59 percent, helping HMEs streamline their businesses.

“Automated resupply is also an important tool for HMEs, as an optimized resupply program can increase revenue and ensure superior clinical outcomes,” he says. “Many patients may not realize the importance of regular mask and supply replacement to ensure a comfortable fit and maximum effectiveness. Following up with patients based on their specific payor reimbursement schedules to communicate this information and set up a mask replacement can be very time consuming. ResMed ReSupply steps in to offer multiple modalities to provide personalized patient outreach, track patient activity, set payer-specific resupply schedules, view reporters and more. This frees up time for HMEs to focus on coaching patients and growing their businesses.”

Giudice says that cellular modem, Wi-Fi, QR code apps, cloud-based portals, integration into automatic re-supply for masks, tubing and filters have all played a part in increasing sleep business both on the provider and payor ends.

“Ease of use and access are really the way to not only becoming
popular with physicians and patients but as HME providers everywhere feel the economic crunch, we in the HME business realm must keep on top of the latest in technologies,” she says. “Offering competitive technology at lower price points is only possible if the HME company is open to trying alternative products and software.”

Outside of technology, flexibility, follow through and great patient care are also key elements of a successful sleep business, says Giudice.

“All customers want to be treated as though their problems are the most important, and to them they are,” she says. “Flexible efficiency and always providing service with a smile goes a long way, especially when dealing with patients and their families who may be unfamiliar with terms, equipment and navigating the waters of medical devices.”

Beyond the evolution of technology, D’Angelo says it’s important to know that patients are more involved in their own care.

“Patients are engaged and have a lot of questions about the different solutions that are available to them, and this is a trend that’s only been growing in the past few years,” he says. “With this shift in patient engagement, HME providers need to focus more efforts on patient education and ensuring that patients understand and feel comfortable with the technology that they’ll be using and that it fits their lifestyle.”

Handling Referrals

Part of sleep business success is learning to do more with less, but at the same time showing referral partners that their patients are in good hands.

“Good results drive business,” D’Angelo says. “Today’s connected solutions are enabling providers to collect and analyze patient data in new ways to improve disease management, and offer more individualized patient management. If a provider is able to show that that their patients are compliant and adhere to therapy better than a competitor, they have an advantage to secure new relationships and generate business.”

Demonstrating benefits to referral sources, including a focus on clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction, are key in maintaining good referral relationships. Peake says it’s important to keep a direct line of communication open with referral sources, including efficiently exchanging information when necessary to help demonstrate your practice’s capabilities. This can sometimes be challenging for HME providers who are increasingly asked to do more with less.

“To address this challenge and help our HME partners run the best businesses possible, ResMed has put a strong emphasis on connectivity,” he says. “Connected care is not only helpful in getting patients the care they need, but also in creating and maintaining a flow of data so each stakeholder of a patient’s care journey is kept in the loop and can provide the best possible care.”

Another challenge for both referral sources and HME providers is documentation management, and that is a key area ResMed has focused on.

“Efficiently managing documentation is essential in maintaining a modern, successful sleep business, and there are several tools that can aid both sides of the information exchange to ensure the right paperwork is in place, handled efficiently and all ready for billing when the time comes,” Peake says.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of HME Business.

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