Reopening of Sleep Centers/Clinics: Sleep Technologist Considerations
As public health professionals make the determination it's safe to see patients and there are more relaxed stay-at-home restrictions, sleep technologist practices should strategically plan on how and when it's best to reopen. They should utilize recommended guidance from relevant prominent authorities, such as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the American Medical Association (AMA), on how to safely reopen their facilities. The AAST has conveniently gathered a great deal of important COVID-19 information for sleep technologists that can be found on the AAST resource page.
The AASM issued this updated guidance in late April 2020 with the intention of assisting sleep center/clinic and laboratory operations in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread. It included guidance based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) recommended mitigation strategies.
The AMA, which is the largest group of physicians and medical students in the U.S. and whose mission includes the betterment of public health, provided guidance and standards in May 2020 for physician practices, including sleep clinics and sleep centers, as recommended steps to take to prepare for their reopening.
Taking guidance from these authorities, sleep technologists and sleep centers should adhere to the following sleep technologist considerations and COVID-19 recommendations for reopening of sleep services, and put them into place where and when applicable.1. Cleaning your Sleep Center and Managing Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT) Equipment
To limit COVID-19 exposure in the sleep center, you should clean and disinfect your facility thoroughly, and particularly high-touch surfaces including:
- Door handles
- Medical equipment and accessories
You must clean high-touch surfaces at least twice a day, as well as the waiting room and workstations.
Consider drop-shipping CPAP equipment to further reduce the risk of virus transmission and infection.
It’s advisable, and many sleep clinics are doing this, to wait 72 hours after receiving returned Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT) equipment from patients before opening the sealed bag.2. PPE Equipment and the Sleep Technologist
Your sleep center staff must use personal protective equipment (PPE) properly. They must always wear a surgical mask, unless they're alone in an expanded work area or in their own room with no one else within six feet. Staff can remove their surgical masks intermittently and store them in a paper bag labeled with their name when they are not within six feet of other people.
The masks must be thrown away if they:
- No longer fit
- Become soiled
- Are past their recommended usage time frame
Staff must wear face shields or goggles, N95 masks, gowns, and gloves during procedures such as:
- When occupying the same room as patients using Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices
- When performing mask fitting with the PAP blower turned on
Staff may reuse their N95 masks five times (five days) and sanitize them with steam three times (two minutes in a microwave at high power or steamer with two ounces of water). They can wash face shields and goggles with water and soap or sanitize them with a Super Sani-Cloth or alcohol wipes. They must discard their gloves after each use.
Command strips or hooks can be placed outside the patient door to hang PPE supplies in use per patient per night.
Evaluate your PPE requirements, consider alternatives like cloth masks, review what your current stockpile contains and what you'll require in the future, and then place your orders. Have supplies delivered to your sleep center in advance so you are prepared to reopen. Deliveries may be sporadic and sufficient supplies are essential to manage your day-today plan.
For an extensive overview of reopening considerations, read the entire article in the A2Zzz Q2 2020 issue.
About Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT
Because of the implementation of his best practices of Implementing Inbound Marketing in its Medical Practice, he turned the once stagnant online presence of Alaska Sleep Clinic to that of "The Most Trafficked Sleep Center Website in the World" in just 18 months time. He is the President and CEO of inboundMed and enjoys helping sleep centers across the globe grow their business through his unique vision and experience of over 27 years in sleep medicine.