Itamar Medical Survey Points at-home Sleep Apnea Testing Trends, COVID Impact

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Itamar®Medical paired with a Sleep Medicine Publication to conduct a survey aimed at understanding the dynamics of the sleep apnea diagnostic market as well as the impact of COVID-19 on the traditional clinic set-up.

The anonymous survey (so designed to mitigate bias) was conducted during February and March, 2021. The survey questionnaire was sent to the participants in two ways:  via email and through social media. More than 200 sleep professionals participated in the survey, representing backgrounds including physicians, technicians, respiratory therapists and director/managers. The survey included questions about both home sleep apnea tests and polysomnography (PSG, which is performed in sleep laboratories). 

What follows are the most significant topline results:

93% of the clinics use HSAT in their daily practice

-66% utilize HSAT for more than 50% of their patients. Only 29% utilize PSG more than HSAT.

This survey result is an indication that a shift is occurring within the daily operations of sleep clinics that was not present pre-COVID-19. With only 29% of sleep clinics using an in-lab study more than a home option, this is a number that seems likely to continue to shrink—since sleep clinics are now able to get the data they need from an at-home option. The availability of disposable HSATs, with no return shipping or quarantining of equipment necessary, also points to this trend continuing. Combined with an increased capability from home sleep apnea tests, including near-instant test results, fewer and fewer sleep clinics will need to rely on their in-lab studies to be able to move patients through from the screening phase, to their diagnosis and treatment. 

Most of the participants think that “insurance controls their use of HSAT.” However, when clinics are selecting an HSAT to diagnose their sleep apnea patients, “ease of use by the patient” is the most important feature in the decision-making process (i.e., more so than reimbursement policies). 

While we have seen a confirmation of certain truths around insurance reimbursement and its connection to clinic choices in this category, it is significant to see that clinics have ranked “patient ease of use” as the feature that affects their choice the most when they are deciding on a home sleep apnea test to prescribe. As home tests are more and more prevalent and patient participation in the screening and testing process becomes more and more important, the clinics recognize that choosing a test that will be user friendly– and will not get in the way of the diagnosis—is something that is important to them.    

-While a majority of the clinics are using airflow-type HSAT, 40% added PAT®-type HSAT to their practices. 

-Due to infection control measures and/or logistical reasons, 55% of the clinics implemented disposable HSAT into their practices. 

-During COVID, 67% of the clinics had moderate/significant decrease in PSG patients, while 66% had moderate/significant increase in home sleep apnea test use. A majority of the clinics (65%) believe that this trend will remain after COVID and HSAT will be their first choice for sleep apnea diagnosis. 

Survey information provided by Itamar® Medical.  As one of the leading home sleep testing companies in the US, Itamar® Medical has pioneered an innovative sleep apnea management program for patients and healthcare professionals.