At Circadiance, we recognize the COVID-19 epidemic is causing interruptions across the healthcare spectrum that have not been seen in recent memory. Particularly in areas that have been defined as non-essential by the CDC.
Sleep Apnea Patients: Continuity of Care and COVID-19
The term “Shifting Healthcare Delivery Modes,” as the CDC describes in their guidance to healthcare professionals, means a large number of sleep centers and clinics are temporarily closing and rescheduling non-urgent outpatient visits. Their staff are either furloughed or reassigned to critical areas. But where does all this leave Sleep Apnea patients? All Sleep Apnea patients are at some point in the continuity of care pathway but are experiencing some form of challenge as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. We would like to offer this message to these patients: we care; and there are solutions for you.
Closing the Gaps in Telehealth Coverage
In a previous blog, Where Do I Get a CPAP Mask? – Part 2, we highlighted an existing CPAP patient who was able to get a mask through one of our preferred mask resellers. We have included a link to this mask resource here. Many people who read this blog found it useful in today’s environment to find there are options to receive a new mask delivered to their door or setup curbside pickup without requiring an outpatient appointment.
Today, we turn our attention to those of you who have been identified as high-risk due to a diagnosis or risk of having Sleep Apnea. If that’s you, then you have probably already experienced delays in initial diagnosis and treatment. Maybe you don’t yet have an order for a particular CPAP machine, pressure setting and mask interface that typically comes from a visit to a sleep disorder center, lab or clinic.
Our message to patients is that there is a movement underway to remove barriers to non-face-to-face healthcare resources, and facilitate care delivery through what is called “telehealth”, a broad term referring to any remote healthcare service. Essentially, this means establishing equal insurance parity with traditional medical settings. On March 6, Congress passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. The legislation will allow physicians and other healthcare professionals to bill Medicare fee-for-service for patient care delivered by telehealth during the current coronavirus public health emergency. Private insurance payers are also easing access to telehealth. Patients will still be able to pay out of pocket for telehealth services, or use their FSA/HSA accounts in some cases, but these changes pave the way for better reimbursement pathways. Rules around these services continue to evolve, so you must check with your insurance provider before seeking any telehealth service for “up-to-the-minute” benefits. Regardless, during this epidemic there are more options for not only for the diagnosis but also the treatment of Sleep Apnea.
Telehealth: A Not-So-Novel Approach to a Novel Virus
Telehealth is already common practice in sleep medicine. If you have a CPAP machine, you are already using a form of it called “telemonitoring”, where data from your device is recorded and sent electronically to your provider to show therapy compliance. “Telemedicine”, the practice that allows sleep professionals to provide clinical care from a distance, has many advantages. Especially in today’s COVID-19 environment. It eliminates the outpatient clinic commute, waiting room exposures and delays in scheduling which, with outpatient closures, is currently more difficult than in the past. Most telemedicine formats involve a web-based video visit platform that is easy to use. All you need is a webcam attached to your computer or laptop and an internet connection or a smart phone. A telemedicine encounter from a sleep specialist is exactly the same as an in-person visit, except it is done remotely.
The standards of telemedicine mirror those of live interactions and have been shown to be equally effective in research. It is becoming a standard of care and has reduced delays dramatically in Veterans Affairs facilities, for example, where reduced wait-times have been a high priority for some time.
Telemedicine relies upon:
- Home-based sleep studies instead of in-lab
- Compliance monitoring of your PAP device usage
- Remote consultations instead of in-person office visits
If you are one of the millions of sleep patients affected by COVID-19, you might be wondering what the next steps are to get back on the path to continuity of care. Circadiance has a successful partnership with one of the few, full-service practices that provides a variety of sleep disorder services and devices, including Sleep Apnea: Singular Sleep, LLC.
Singular Sleep is an award-winning online sleep center, founded in 2014 by Dr. Joseph Krainin, which offers home Sleep Apnea tests. Patients can order, without referrals, online sleep doctor consultations, affordable CPAP machines and CPAP masks. It is a true “one-stop shop”!
Dr. Joseph Krainin has a distinguished background in sleep medicine:
- Double-board certified in Sleep and Neurology
- Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for distinguished contributions to the field
- Graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine
- Licensed to practice medicine in 47 states
- Named one of the best sleep doctors in the country