With Philips Respironics discontinuing the Alice 6, Alice NightOne, and Alice PDx devices, where will sleep specialists turn for their sleep diagnostics equipment?

By Ann H. Carlson

Philips Respironics’ decision to drop popular sleep diagnostics products—including the Alice 6 in-lab sleep study equipment, the Alice NightOne home sleep study device, and the Alice PDx home sleep study device—surprised many US customers. 

Although anecdotal reports of diagnostic equipment backorders, lengthy repair wait times, and part shortages meant the fate of these sleep diagnostics machines had been in flux for a while, the timing of Philips’ announcement was still unexpected, according to industry stakeholders.

“Philips remains committed to the sleep and respiratory care business, though we recognize the significant impact this has on our customers in the US,” says Mario Fante, global external relations director at Philips. “While these changes are difficult, they are necessary to help us refocus our portfolio to effectively meet the needs of our customers and their patients…We continue to offer and provide our mask and accessories portfolio products.”  

Ingvar Hjalmarsson, president of sleep diagnostics maker Nox Medical, says these changes will significantly impact the field of sleep medicine. “Not only are patients suffering, but healthcare providers and the entire industry have been negatively impacted by these events. I entered the sleep space in 1999 and have seen some important developments happen, but I believe that this event is of the greatest magnitude since I entered the field,” says Hjalmarsson.

[Read: Statement from Philips on Sleep Product Withdrawals]

Sleep Industry Stunned by Philips’ Exit

Kevin Kunz, CEO and founder of Sleeptopia, a home sleep testing business based in Wichita, Kan, has been offering the Alice NightOne as an option for customers since the product was introduced in 2015.

“This took me by surprise as we just ordered and received 30 devices from them,” Kunz says. “We were under the impression [diagnostics] was the direction they were going, along with increasing focus on their mask sales.”

Some Philips customers—including Sleeptopia and VirtuOx, a nationwide home diagnostics testing provider—have been able to weather the Philips recall storm by offering products from more than one vendor.

“The Philips announcement of discontinuing certain products, including diagnostics, was a surprise to us,” says Kyle Miko, CRT/CSE, founder and chief marketing officer of VirtuOx. “We carry many diagnostic devices, so when one vendor has an issue, it does not impact our services.”

Still, the announcement is already reshaping the sleep industry in the United States.

“I think there are going to be two major impacts,” says Drew Lackner, vice president of sales and business development for Nox Medical. “Sleep labs are going to have to make decisions about how they move forward with their programs, and sleep diagnostic manufacturers are going to have to decide whether it’s worth staying in this business. If they haven’t been doing any new research and development, it may be too late…I suspect that we will see fallout from other companies.”

Increased Demand for Philips Alice Alternatives

One immediate impact is that Philips customers are already seeking new products to replace their discontinued devices.

“In the weeks leading up to the announcement, we have seen a dramatic uptick in interest from many new customers,” Hjalmarsson says. “Compared to this time last year, we have seen a tripling in customer inquiries.”

Hjalmarsson notes that the company’s product training team is traveling throughout the United States to install equipment. “We have also doubled our training capacity in the last 12 months,” he says.

Sleep diagnostics company CleveMed is also experiencing a surge in demand for its SleepView products and services. “We are fortunate in that we planned our future inventory levels for aggressive growth post-COVID because we believed in the permanency of the transition from in-lab PSG testing to HSAT,” says Sarah Weimer, vice president of sleep services and products for CleveMed. “We have recently further increased our inventory pipeline to accommodate the demand due to NightOne disruption.”

Compumedics, which offers a range of sleep diagnostics products, has also been working to accommodate former Alice customers. “We have many Philips Respironics customers approaching Compumedics interested in our product offerings for [polysomnography] and HST,” says Jay Vreeland, national marketing manager for Compumedics. “We are evaluating trade-in programs for customers with Philips Respironics products that align with our product categories, such as an Alice system and our Grael PSG system.”

Signs of a New Era in Sleep Diagnostics

The disruption caused by the Philips announcement will continue to send ripples through the industry, but many in the sleep space believe this is an opportunity to build for the future.

For example, the Philips recall situation inspired home-testing provider VirtuOx to pivot its business model. “During COVID, when repairs and purchasing of expensive reusable devices were challenging with the Philips Alice NightOne or the ResMed ApneaLink Air, we moved the majority of our business to a one-way, disposable, HSAT-type program,” Miko says.

The move is already paying off, as former Philips diagnostics customers look for alternative solutions. “We are experiencing a surge,” Miko says.

Being nimble in a changing industry will be the key to success for sleep programs, Hjalmarsson notes, but not all programs have the financial means to pivot quickly.

“It is imperative that sleep programs that may require a large investment in the wake of these events consider a future-proof solution that is ready to support a wide range of services that sleep labs can offer,” he says. “Others will look to outsource more of their operations. 

“I’m also concerned that some programs may not get the funding needed to replace their diagnostic testing devices. In too many places, we see underfunded sleep programs, lacking the support for investment to get more patients to the right therapy.”

Part of the problem is complicated reimbursement policies, which can significantly impact which services and equipment are available to patients.

“There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace with regards to which [home sleep testing] monitors qualify for reimbursement and which don’t, especially for some newer nonairflow-based wearable monitors,” says Hani Kayyali, president and CEO of CleveMed. “Perhaps there needs to be a more dedicated effort by [the American Academy of Sleep Medicine] or insurance companies to educate stakeholders on this issue.”

Opening for Newer Diagnostic Tech

In the meantime, sleep testing providers such as Sleeptopia continue to seek alternatives for customers who prefer the discontinued Philips diagnostics products they have used for many years.

“This is sad news, as the NightOne has been a staple in the industry and provides trustworthy results,” Kunz says. “But like all industries, we’ve grown with options and technology, so I’m excited to see what is to come. When the NightOne came out, we had only a few reliable options. Lucky for all of us in the industry, we have options now.”

Newer technology is already harnessing modern conveniences to make it easier to test patients from home, according to Miko.

“There are many features that are far superior to the Philips NightOne device. For example, the Philips NightOne requires the provider to mail the device to and from the patient’s home and requires a physical download at your office,” he says. “With the newer technologies we use, the data can be uploaded directly from the patient’s home using their smartphone.”

Advances like these will be attractive to sleep providers looking to reduce costs. “I expect providers of sleep testing to implement newer technologies that can be a one-way delivery model, disposable-type solution, where data can automatically transmit from the patient’s home,” Miko says.

The development of more modern capabilities to improve sleep diagnostics for both providers and patients is a bright spot for an industry reeling from the loss of a major industry player in Philips.

“This year, we have a few devices coming to the market that I’m pretty excited about,” Kunz says. “Everything has come a long way since NightOne came to market, and the future is bright.”

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