In the Company of Sleep
As we review the sleep landscape, it is interesting to learn that there are several sleep corporations that have been developed, as well as a few independents, that are interested in helping people get into the business of sleep. I like the idea of these companies. Our laboratories have used such companies and started laboratories on our own, so my perspective is somewhat encompassing. With so many great opportunities to choose from, it is important to do your homework and compare them to one another.
For example, I have come across companies that are excellent for the rural sleep laboratory; use the Internet to the doctors advantage; are using some of the newest technologies in their practices to increase efficiencies; have schools to train their own technicians and doctors; and help with board certification. These are just some of the many options out there. Most of these companies also do business in clinical trials, durable medical equipment, and research for new products; help with marketing; and promote educational activities. However, before employing one of them, it is important to understand their policies and procedures in order to know what you are getting into.
Rule One: most companies will charge you on a per-study basis (there is one that just charges a start-up fee and then you do it all yourself), or some will require a certain number of studies per month (or you pay the difference). No matter what the case, it is essential to know or at least get an understanding of what managed care organizations (MCOs) and Medicare in that area are paying. That way you do not agree to a fee-for-service that is greater than the money you are going to get.
Rule Two: experience counts. Even though someone may appear to have a laboratory up and running, if they have not set up at least five laboratories in your type of setting, you may want to scrutinize them a bit further as they might not know what they are getting into.
Rule Three: make sure you understand what they are offering. Some companies say they will handle all the scheduling and precertification; however, what they do is have a call center and put patients where the company wants them (to fill beds), not necessarily where the doctor or patients want to go.
Rule Four: always compare more than one company. The price may not change, but some of the options might.
Remember, no one company is perfect, but as I have said in the past, this is not an easy business to be in. We must be informed and educated consumers.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, is Diplomate of the ABSM, and founder and senior partner, The Sleep Center Management Institute, Atlanta; www.sleepcentermanagement.com.