As the Sleep Technologist Role Expands, We Respond
Attention sleep technologists: Your role in the sleep center is about to expand. Market dynamics that are creating new pressures to respond to changes in the delivery in sleep medicine today are twofold.The first is related to workforce demands—and this is not unique to sleep technologists. Rather, we continue to see increasing pressure across allied healthcare for the non-physician clinician to take on a bigger role in monitoring compliance and follow-up.
As the trend in medicine continues to evolve towards telemedicine, sleep technologists will continue to play a role. Of course, the principles of telemedicine are not new to this discipline. In fact, we have been using remote monitoring and store-and-forward technologies to obtain and review sleep study data and monitor PAP compliance for quite some time. But now as you add in new models and technologies, such as video conferencing—coupled with HSAT and PAP management—what you have is the opportunity for sleep technologists to truly reinvent their role. The ability to define that role is the question at hand.
The second pressure is related to the payer initiative of moving beyond testing and treatment and looking at outcomes related to quality of life. Essentially, what this means is that as a sleep professional, the idea of adherence to therapy isn’t the only driver for success. In addition, there needs to be a focus on improving quality of life. Along with that comes a change in insurance pressure of moving to diagnostics testing being done in the home.
As market forces and technological advances continue to put pressure on sleep technologists to expand their role in the sleep center, evidence shows that the best way to mitigate the negative aspects of these changes comes in the form of increased education and expertise. But as we all know, the level of expertise within the sleep technologist community can be characterized as being varied at best. As we continue to develop the role of the sleep technologist of the future, the need for a higher level of education and skills to provide value to potential employers and be competitive in the job market remains apparent. For some, this will require extensive retraining, while for others the requirement is focused education in distinct skillsets.
As I outlined in a recent issue of A2Zzz, the consensus is that new entrants to the profession of sleep technology should seek, at a minimum, an associate’s degree. Training should begin with technical skills and knowledge, but should also include communication and presentation skills; knowledge of cardio-respiratory systems and comorbidities associated with sleep disorders; critical thinking and adaptability.
As a member of AAST you can rest assured that we will continue our advocacy efforts for more formalized higher education for sleep professionals. We remain steadfast in our work with stakeholders to provide education and training that meets the needs of members, technologists, trainees, employers and patients.
We are looking at the essential job functions of this role and to supporting it with educational material. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to visit our revamped online learning system. Here you will find tools and resources specifically developed to elevate your skills as a sleep technologist.
And the delivery of these resources is much different than before. We have evolved past the static video and quiz formats to a more interactive experience where you are guiding the lesson based on certain preferences.
On another front, we continue to promote the position of sleep health educator. We are working with BRPT to support the Certification in Clinical Sleep Health (CCSH) credential with educational material and programs —providing high level module-type education geared toward the learning needs of sleep health educators with a focus on patient care management, understanding health outcomes, and being an advocate for the importance of good sleep.
We have recently developed and posted a sleep educator job description, professional standards, and a standardized patient curriculum to provide consistent patient education. So now when the sleep health educator is working with the patient, they can use these tools to provide consistent education that meets professional standards. These standards and patient curriculum support billing codes that meet criteria for non-physician billing.
In all, there are many exciting developments occurring as it relates to advancing the sleep profession through education. One of our primary objectives as an association is to raise the professionalism of our clinicians, and as such, we continue working with credentialing organizations to raise that minimum education level.
As your role expands we are here to provide you with the resources to respond!