Sleep Services of America is leading the sleep industry by providing full-service sleep laboratories at more than 80 locations in 11 states.

 When National Sleep Technologies Inc (NST) and HSI Medical Services Corporation merged in December 2001 into Sleep Services of America Inc, Arnold, Md, they were doing so to keep pace with the market. “[Sleep medicine is] going to grow dramatically in the next 3 to 5 years, and it’s growing at a rate that I think, in most instances, is difficult for a small company to keep up with,” says Floyd Hartfield, CEO of Sleep Services of America. “The demands are going to increase, and that’s [one of the] synergistic reasons why we wanted to put NST and HSI together.”

The merged company—like the original separate entities—provides full-service turnkey sleep laboratory operations, including sales and marketing, at more than 80 locations in 11 states including New York, Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina Oklahoma, Connecticut, Maryland, Texas, and the District of Columbia. The only thing a hospital has to provide is space, furniture, and billing services. It is a business model that has been successful for a specific reason. “We’re basically offering a no-risk opportunity for hospitals to get into diagnostic sleep testing,” Hartfield says. “We can get them open more quickly, buy the equipment, do the installation, and employ the staff.”

In the past, if an organization was too remote from its current business or did not have a large enough patient volume to establish a self-contained laboratory, Sleep Services of America would not be able to do business with them. This was solved with the company’s Instant Sleep Laboratory program (iSLEEP). “We worked in partnership with the Upstate Medical University (SUNY) and developed a four-credit sleep program. This gave us the ability to train current respiratory or other health care staff to gather sleep diagnostic data,” says John Mathias, president of Sleep Services of America. “It works extremely well for rural hospitals. They provide the sleep studies that they need and send the studies to our staff to perform backup and scoring. It really becomes a win-win for them and for us, and certainly for the community.”

The key to the success of any sleep laboratory is not the equipment, but the people. “Anybody can go out and buy equipment—but providing a staff with competent, patient-sensitive, caring sleep technicians is entirely different,” Hartfield says. “Anybody who performs sleep testing today is going to tell you that staffing is key, and that’s what I think separates our company [from our competitors].” Of its 250 employees, 150 are sleep technicians and of those, 51 are credentialed. In addition, the company works with a large number of board-certified sleep physicians.

Hartfield adds that providing a career ladder for employees helps prevent career burnout and motivates them to stay, which are additional keys to continued growth. Along with the SUNY program, the company has set up a certificate program at the Community College of Baltimore. The company also works with Empower Baltimore to encourage students to enter sleep medicine, which essentially creates a cadre of potential new employees for the growing company.

The merger has opened a number of opportunities for Sleep Services of America including research. The company performs as many as 26,000 studies per year and because of its large geographic presence and patient population, research sleep studies can be completed quickly and comprehensively. “Demographics are a huge key in order to do the unbiased study that [drug companies and physicians] are looking for us to do,” Mathias says. “[We’re] able to serve and provide research data for all populations. We have the unique ability to meet most of the demographic needs any research project would be looking for.”

Mathias adds that other growth areas for the company and sleep medicine in general include evaluating cardiac complications in sleep patients and new technologies that will allow for home screening.

According to both Mathias and Hartfield, what makes the company unique is that its laboratories are accredited by both the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and/or the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The company is also a founding member of the National Sleep Alliance. “We’re strongly encouraging similar companies to join the National Sleep Alliance,” Mathias says. “I think that if more companies like ours pull together to promote accreditation, standards, and education, the better off we’ll be as a profession.”

Chris Wolski is associate editor of Sleep Review.