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Blog Feature

By: AAST Editor on August 30th, 2018

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Jessica Schmidt on The Field of Sleep Medicine in the Context of the American Healthcare Landscape

sleep center | sleep technologist | aast | night shift work

Jessica Jessica Schmidt, RPSGT, CCSH, FACHE, is presenting the breakout session "The Field of Sleep Medicine in the Context of the American Healthcare Landscape” at the AAST 2018 Annual Meeting, Sept. 28-30, 2018, in Indianapolis. We caught up with Schmidt to discuss her background and the future of sleep medicine.

What is your background, and how did you get involved in the sleep field?

I started my career in healthcare as a sleep technologist some 15 or so years ago. I am now the president of the BRPT.  My background is unique in that I have since taken on additional duties in a University Health System. I run the Department of Medicine at Georgetown University. This comprises many physician practices along with various procedural areas including sleep and cardiology. I also serve on several hospital-wide and healthcare system wide committees/initiatives. Finally, I recently earned my FACHE certification, which centers on overall healthcare executive management. Though these diverse experiences, I have a window into the broader healthcare landscape, reaching far beyond sleep. In my role on the BRPT, I try to bring these insights to bear on the sleep field to keep our profession evolving with these larger trends.

What is the topic of your session? What will attendees take away from it?

My talk situates sleep in the broader field of healthcare in general. Often sleep techs are (somewhat fortunately) insulated from some of the big changes hitting the wider industry. I hope to speak to some of the relevant changes that are most likely to increase sleep in the coming years. Examples include such disruptive trends as artificial intelligence, pay for performance, deregulation and industry consolidation.

What is the biggest challenge you see sleep professionals facing currently?

I think we'll need to face many of these changes head on. Particularly shifting reimbursement and payment models. It's unlikely that valued-based initiatives will continue to support the current rate of in lab testing and titrations. That's why I see the CCSH credential as so critical to our evolving field. To grow with it, we'll need sleep techs to shift their focus from night time testing to daytime counseling and education. Ultimately, those who have the best outcomes  for overall patient health will be those who survive these rapid changes. A pessimist would see this as very grim for our field, but I see plenty of opportunity for those who can be nimble and adaptive.

How do you see the field changing in the next few years? 10 years?

In the next few years, I expect more of the same: the hospital-based labs will continue to see sicker and sicker patients, which is all the more reason our night techs will need to have in-depth medical expertise to manage acute patients with multiple comorbidities. There will continue to be a shift toward home sleep testing and auto-titrating PAP, but there will always be an in-lab core. Insurance carriers will continue to save cost and reduce coverage, so more burden will shift to patients, who will shop around for the best value in care (with increasingly transparent pricing). In 10 years, I think the shift will be more of a focus on prevention and wellness (e.g., initiatives to reverse the obesity epidemic and the related rise in chronic disease). It will be more about sleeping well and staying healthy than dealing with existent OSA and it's sequelae.