University Hospitals Sleep Medicine Enhances Patient Access
March 25, 2021
Demand is up during the COVID-19 pandemic
UH Clinical Update | March 2021
With more patients seeking sleep medicine services during the pandemic, whether from the lingering effects of COVID-19 or simply from having a pandemic-disrupted sleep schedule, there is some good news to report at University Hospitals. Thanks to new hiring, UH Sleep Medicine is now able to accommodate patients for in-lab sleep studies within ten days – sometimes sooner. For home sleep studies, results are now available within 21 days from the time of order.
“In some cases, it could be just one week, and same-day availability is also on the books – it depends what insurance the patient has. That usually is the biggest hurdle,” says UH sleep medicine specialist Eric Yeh, MD. “But as far as staffing goes, we are ready. We have done a lot of different things, and Dr. Maronian was key, hiring more people. As a result, access is enhanced. Patients should be able to get in and see one of us within a week, even for new patient visits.”
Sleep medicine providers are stationed across all parts of the UH service area, including Westlake, Avon and other West side communities, helping to better meet patients’ travel and scheduling needs.
Another new development within Sleep Medicine is the creation of inpatient EMR orders for sleep studies and inpatient sleep medicine consults. According to Dr. Yeh, the sleep study orders will be ready to be used by the end of March, with the inpatient consult orders to follow as a trial in early April.
“That’s something very exciting,” he says. “Once the hospitalist or other referring physician puts in that order, he or she can opt to have the sleep medicine team pick up the load and follow the patient from there. They may not see the patient once they are discharged, but they can feel confident that somebody else from the sleep medicine team will pick it up and take care of the patient. Of course, they could also choose the follow the patient on their own, but this gives them a reliable alternative.”
As they care for an increasing number of patients, the Sleep Medicine team at UH is also engaged in clinical research aimed at bringing that care to the next level. One current clinical trial led by Ambrose Chiang, MD, currently enrolling UH patients, is evaluating a small ring called Belun. Worn on the finger, it gathers all the data needed for a home sleep study, but in a less cumbersome way for the patient.
“It could be something that’s very accessible for patients to determine if they have sleep apnea,” Dr. Yeh says. “We are basically validating its accuracy. It has been promising for the first two or three trials – we’re expanding to a different population to see how things work. It would be much easier to use in home sleep studies. It’s light, it’s easy and the results are available the next day. In the morning you put it on a cradle, the data is uploaded to a cloud, they have algorithms to analyze it and it should give you very appropriate results. It’s just a very fast, easy-to-use device.”
Once the clinical trial is complete and the device is validated, it could be deployed to primary care offices, Dr. Yeh says. However, that is a bit down the road. Details are yet to be determined.
“Stay tuned,” he says.