Imagine if you could bring together physicians who specialize in treating sleep apnea,the folks that work with the physicians (sleep techs), the manufacturers who make the machine to treat the more severe cases (CPAP devices), the companies that distribute the machines (HME or DME), patients who have sleep apnea and the odd non-profit executive (NSF and moi) to talk about what is the BEST way to be certain the patient receive the CARE they need... well that would be one hellava conference and could with any luck at all really make a difference in the lives of those who need treatment for sleep apnea.
It happened... last weekend and I was there. Did the heavens open up and we experience an epiphany that provided us with the answer to all our questions? No, but it was definitely a start.
The American College of Chest Physicians - Sleep Institute hosted the meeting at their offices on September 8 and 9. Representatives from the groups listed above, yes, including patients came together in an attempt to come a consensus on the most appropriate continuity of care for the OSA patient... from diagnosis and beyond.
The idea for the conference came from Dr. Charles Atwood, Chair of the Sleep Institute within the ACCP. Here is a picture of me and Charlie at the Sleep Apnea Awareness Day lecture earlier this year. The idea for the conference came to him three years ago to put something like together. I hope when all is said and done, patients will remember to thank Charlie for putting forth the effort that started the ball rolling.
The results of the conference will be reported after further analysis of the small group work done during the meeting. It is likely to be sometime next year before we see anything in print.
I can say that their several areas of general agreement - sleep apnea needs to be reclassified from a acute disease (treat it and the problem goes away) to a chronic disease (a condition that requires some ongoing attention) - if those who are responsible for paying for care (ie. insurance companies and Medicare) understood this and looked at how those who are compensated for diagnosis and ongoing care - adjusting the compensation according - that alone would make a big difference - A Big Difference.
Another area of agreement was education... everybody could use more education. In this case, we aren't talking about awareness, which is also important, but physicians (sleep and primary care), home care providers and patients understanding what each is supposed to do to make certain the condition is effectively treated.
I had a great weekend last weekend... I had a chance to think about, talk about and perhaps contribute in a small way to improving the care of those with sleep apnea.
Next stop... Montreal and the 8th World Congress on Sleep Apnea.