It may feel a bit daunting trying to continue practicing and treating your sleep apnea patients during this time. Although you want to help them achieve better rest and overall health, the reality is that COVID-19 has caused a dramatic change in the way people live and function daily, including seeking treatment for common health conditions. Fortunately, your patients don’t have to feel neglected or abandoned. By adhering to some of the recommended restrictions put forth by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), you can continue treating sleep apnea while keeping you and your patients safe.
Pre-Screen Your Patients
When a patient calls to schedule an appointment, have your staff perform a pre-screen over the phone. By asking about any health issues in previous days, you can determine if they should come in or wait to see you for treatment. If an appointment is scheduled for them to come into the office, make sure to follow the proper CDC protocols for screening patients in-house.
Provide Telemedicine Visits
It is becoming more common for physicians and other healthcare providers to offer telemedicine to patients during this time. Not only does this keep everyone better protected, but it also allows the patient to converse with you about their symptoms and condition as well as express concerns and ask questions. This level of personalized service will keep your patients coming back long after the doors of your office open back up.
Recommend Alternatives to Patients
If your patient is using a CPAP machine to manage their sleep apnea and is unable to locate distilled water, remind them of alternatives that can be used on a short-term basis: purified bottled water (without added minerals) or tap water that is filtered. If they are unable to access either of these alternative options, advise them to clean their humidifier rigorously to prevent mineral buildup.
Postpone In-Lab Appointments Unless It’s an Emergency
In emergencies, make sure to follow proper Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when seeing a patient. Otherwise, try to postpone or reschedule any in-lab administration of CPAP therapy. Also, avoid using a CPAP inside the office, as this can increase the possible risk of transmitting respiratory infections via aerosolization.
Follow Parameters for Home Sleep Apnea Tests (HSAT)
If possible, provide patients with single-use devices that are disposable or have components that can be properly disposed of. If this is not possible, make sure to follow CDC disinfection guidelines by wearing appropriate PPE to clean and sanitize the device to prevent possible transmission. The best course of action in this instance is to make it impossible to reuse the device for at least 72 hours.
Also, reiterate to patients that they will not need to leave their home to receive or return the HSAT device.
Although this is a difficult time for all individuals, both healthcare professionals and their patients, you can continue to provide the highest level of care while keeping everyone safe. Remember to communicate and remind them that their treatment and care will not cease during this time. Make yourself available when possible so that you can ensure the health and safety of your patients.
About 21st Century Sleep Seminars
Dr. Kent Smith is a top professional in sleep medicine who has experience in treating, writing, and speaking about sleep disorders. His wealth of knowledge has helped other dentists integrate sleep apnea treatment into their practices. At 21st Century Sleep Seminars, we can provide you with the information, tips, advice, and network of professionals you need to effectively treat these sleep disorders your patients are facing. To learn more, visit our website or call (972) 255-3712.