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President's Message: Sleep Technology Summit a Success

Posted by admin on Oct 15, 2013 12:06:00 PM

On September 21st the American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST) Board of Directors hosted a Sleep Technology Summit at our national office.   The goal of this summit was to explore current trends, share knowledge with colleagues across the spectrum of the sleep technology field, review current trends and explore the future of the sleep technology profession. 

This group of selected leaders, educators and industry professionals reviewed the current state of affairs and examined opportunities to sustain the profession and expand the role of the sleep technologist.   An esteemed panel of speakers presented topics focused on the skills that will be essential for the technologist of the future and the business skills necessary to care for patients with sleep disorders cost effectively.   Facilitated group discussions of these critical topics followed the morning and afternoon presentations. 

The morning discussion surrounding business skills focused on the shift from in laboratory testing to out of center sleep testing (OCST), the complexities of insurance requirements, and how these changes will affect the sleep technologist and the practice of sleep medicine.  As OCST becomes more prevalent, patients tested in the sleep laboratory will be more complex and harder to manage, which will require higher skill levels for technologists performing these studies.  In addition, a broader level of understanding of co-morbidities and their impact on sleep and health will be essential to assure appropriate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up for these patients. 

An understanding of co-morbidities is also essential for negotiating increasingly complex insurance requirements and determining which patients are appropriate for in laboratory testing versus OCST.  Staff obtaining preauthorization must be knowledgeable and prepared to work with insurers to provide the appropriate care for each individual patient.  Know the requirements for pre-authorization and work with insurers, not against them.  Involve physicians in the appeals process when an appeal is appropriate. 

Assure that an organized process is in place for provision of OCST services when they are appropriate.  Consider providing durable medical equipment (DME) services for both business and patient care reasons.  Expect the focus to change from testing to patient care.  Embrace change; expect and participate in forward thinking trends such as shared medical appointments and telemedicine.      

The afternoon discussions focused on new roles for the sleep technologist in the changing paradigm of healthcare in general, and in sleep medicine in particular.  We envisioned an expanded role for the sleep technologist that includes greater participation in patient education, patient care and treatment compliance, and measurement, tracking and documentation of outcomes measures.  A case management model for care of the patient with a sleep disorder is anticipated.  This will require physician involvement for development of the role and additional training and education for technologists.  This role will require a high level of critical thinking ability and the soft skills necessary to a patient care environment. 

A move toward a higher level of education for all technologists is essential.  At a minimum the educational entry level for sleep technologists needs to move to an associate degree level, and consensus among physicians, employers and educators was that the long term goal for technologists performing at a case management level should be a bachelor’s degree.  We need to consider the role of credentials for sleep technologists as well as the need to increase educational requirements for eligibility.  Educational level is what separates a trade from a profession.  In these changing times we must raise the bar and develop sleep technology as a profession.              

The information and support of the dedicated professionals and stakeholders from across the spectrum of sleep medicine and technology who participated in this summit to explore and define the future of the sleep technology profession will assist the AAST to position today’s sleep technologist for an expanded role in the patient care continuum in a new sleep care environment that is cost effective, efficient and focused on outcomes.

Rita Brooks, M Ed., RST, RPSGT,REEG/EPT