Polysomnography Forecast

Vol. 18 • Issue 1 • Page 10
Sleep Tracks

A unique camaraderie builds when people in the same field of interest get together each year to connect with one another. For registered sleep technologists, the annual Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists Symposium is the event for catching up with friends, networking, learning from leaders in the field, and earning those now-needed continuing education credits for recertification, said BRPT President Becky Appenzeller, RPSGT, REEGT, CNIM.

“The Future of Polysomnography,” the theme of September’s BRPT Symposium in San Diego, focused on the challenges and opportunities RPSGTs are facing. “Some of the attendees told me the presentations prepared them for the changes to come,” said BRPT President-elect Janice East, RPSGT, REEGT. “From a professional standpoint, I don’t think you can find information that is important to your career as easily any other way.”

Keynote speaker Alex Chediak, MD, a leading sleep medicine clinician and the immediate past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, identified three key factors that fuel the demand for sleep services. The first is increased awareness among public health and policymakers about health burdens related to sleep loss. Second is the high therapeutic benefit and low-risk factor of treatment. Third is the increasing prevalence of sleep disorders among aging baby boomers.

In addition, people who cannot access traditional sleep centers are expressing increased interest in portable monitoring and home sleep testing. As a result, utilization of full PSG testing dropped 30 percent to 60 percent in 2008. While “the sky is falling”

may be an initial response to these numbers, Dr. Chediak said it is not fully warranted because of the many advantages of using full PSG testing over portable monitoring, including better outcomes and better identification of alternate sleep pathology.

In fact, Dr. Chediak predicted that the value of RPSGT-credentialed sleep technologists will increase due to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid requirements that testing should be monitored by a credentialed technologist if beneficiaries use an independent diagnostic testing facility. Additionally, AASM accreditation requires sleep labs and centers to employ at least one technologist who holds the RPSGT credential.

Dr. Chediak and Philip R. Westbrook, MD, past president of the AASM and founder of Advanced Brain Monitoring Inc., Carlsbad, Calif., agree that over the next decade, sleep centers will shift emphasis from diagnosis to management of sleep disorders as chronic diseases.

In his presentation, Dr. Westbrook challenged the audience to think of obstructive sleep apnea as a medical condition that requires a lifetime of care, just as insulin resistance does. With that model in mind, he sketched out the future for sleep technologists as taking on the major role in ongoing patient care, and eventually expanding out of sleep centers and labs to become sleep disorder managers for primary care groups.

These educational sessions from leaders in the field have broadened the symposium’s mandate since 2007, when the first event gathered RPSGTs together with the primary purpose of item-writing, or the development of questions for the RPSGT exam. Twice the number of attendees participated, and even more are expected at the 2009 BRPT Symposium, to be held Sept. 17 to 21 in Savannah, Ga., which also will mark BRPT’s 30th anniversary.

Helen Sullivan is communications director of the BRPT.