"How do I get a sleep study quickly? I don’t want to wait any longer." This is an all too common inquiry that we get at Singular Sleep. Here’s your guide to getting a quick sleep apnea test.
Common Reasons Why People Need Fast Sleep Studies
In many areas of the country and in several healthcare systems, sleep medicine is an underserved specialty meaning that there are not enough sleep labs and sleep doctors to care for the population. This problem is more acute in several urban and rural districts as well as the Veterans Health Affairs (VA) and Indian Health Services (IHS) systems. I’ve heard from many patients who’s local sleep center told them that they could not get in for a study for at least two months. This problem is typically even worse for pediatric sleep studies as the sleep center staff needs special training and expertise to conduct them; therefore, not every sleep center offers this service. It's not uncommon to have to wait three months or more to see a pediatric sleep specialist or have a pediatric sleep study.
Even if you can get into your local sleep center for a sleep study relatively quickly, say within a week or two, there are a few reasons why you might need a sleep study done more urgently:
- An upcoming surgery
- Anesthesiologists are now aggressively screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) during pre-operative evaluations, typically with the STOP-Bang assessment. This is because the evidence is clear that sleep apnea increases the risk for bad surgical outcomes such as difficulty removing the breathing tube after surgery and transfers to the ICU. If you have an upcoming surgery and have been “red-flagged” as at high-risk for sleep apnea, you might need to scramble to get the study done and get started on treatment prior to your scheduled procedure. Research shows that the post-surgical risks from OSA are prevented if the patient is using CPAP prior to and immediately after the surgery.
- Job-related requirements
- CDL-holders and pilots who meet certain biometric or other risk factors may be required to have a sleep study before their medical cards are renewed. If the medical card expires, these folks cannot legally do their jobs and their employers will usually put them on an unpaid furlough until this requirement is met. In some cases, these transportation workers have even lost their jobs due to not addressing the situation in a timely manner.
- Atrial fibrillation management
- The evidence suggests that people with "a fib" and untreated sleep apnea have poorer outcomes from ablation procedures. Your electrophysiologist (EP) might insist that you get checked out for sleep apnea before he/she will consider performing a cardiac ablation.
- Sleepiness while driving
- OSA has been associated with a five-fold increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. This is obviously a very dangerous situation and should be addressed with all possible expediency.
Unfortunately, a disconnect has developed between the medical community’s success in raising awareness about the dangerous health consequences of sleep apnea (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and sudden death) and our failure to provide timely solutions to the problem. If you don’t or can’t wait any longer to get into your local sleep lab, what are your options?
A Possible Solution: Private Sleep Apnea Testing
Generally, private companies that are “out of network” with insurance companies can move more quickly when it comes to sleep apnea testing.
There are numerous factors at play here:
- Less bureaucracy
- No need to obtain a “prior authorization”
- No referral needed (in some cases)
The downside is that, by definition, these companies don't bill your insurance directly. You will have to submit an out of network claim form to your insurer to obtain reimbursement or to apply the expenditures towards your deductible.
Home Sleep Studies Are Usually Faster Than In-Lab Sleep Studies
There are several factors that, if executed properly, enable faster results with home sleep apnea tests vs. in-lab sleep studies:
- With home sleep testing, there are no staffing issues like in a sleep lab.
- Generally, "capacity" is not a factor, unlike sleep labs which have a limited number of available beds. This is true so long as the home sleep apnea test company has a sufficient number of testing units. However, fulfillment and shipping times need to be considered (see discussion below).
- It is both easier for a technologist to "score" the data and a sleep physician to interpret the data from home sleep studies than in-lab sleep studies; this results in the capacity for a quicker turn-around-time in generating reports with home sleep apnea studies.
Considerations for Ordering a Private Home Sleep Study
Before you buy a home sleep test, these are important factors to ask the private home sleep company so you can fully understand how long the process will take from order to delivery of test results:
- Do you need a referral?
- Some companies, like Singular Sleep, allow you to order a sleep study without a referral while others require a referral. There is no legal requirement for a referral, this is simply an internal company policy issue.
- What's the order fulfillment time like?
- Once you place the order, how long until the home sleep apnea test kit ships?
- What shipping options are available?
- Most home sleep apnea test companies offer free 2-5 day shipping. Of course, this will be 2-5 days out to you and 2-5 days back to the company. If you're really in a hurry, you'll need expedited shipping. If the company doesn't offer this, look elsewhere.
- What's the turn around time for delivery of the sleep study test results?
- Most home sleep study companies contract with sleep physicians to read the studies and are at their mercy as to when the study gets read. This can lead to significant delays in getting your test results.
- Will I know if I did the test correctly?
- Getting the sleep study quickly but having to repeat it because you didn’t get good data defeats the purpose. There are many different home sleep apnea test unit manufacturers. Find out if the testing system that the company uses allows you to determine if you did the test properly before you send it back. At Singular Sleep, we use the Philips Alice NightOne unit and one of the great things about it is that it has a "good study indicator." In the morning, you simply push a button and buttons and, if it lights up, you had enough good data for the doctor to generate a report.
- Does the company have good customer support?
- If you didn't do the study correctly or you can't figure out how to use it in the first place, does the company have real, live people that you can talk to and get help from or just an online FAQ?