There are ways to transition your sleep disorders center to single-use sensors without negatively impacting workflows or encountering supply chain shortages.
By Patrick Munsey
A shift toward single-use sensors in sleep disorders centers began nearly a decade ago, and the COVID pandemic accelerated the trend.
Accrediting organizations advocate for disposable sensors, with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggesting their use during the pandemic to reduce the risk of infection.1 Single-use sensors also offer the benefit of reducing sterilization challenges, says Todd Eiken, RPSGT, FAAST, vice president of product development at sleep sensor and electrode maker Dymedix Diagnostics.
“It is becoming more difficult to comply with standards relating to sterilization of reusable sensors,” he says. “And there are some benefits to disposables. If I were a patient, would I want to have something that was just breathed on by some other patient? I just don’t think I would.”
According to James Blevins, product manager at Cadwell, which recently acquired sleep sensor line Sleepmate, more disposable sleep sensors are available today than ever. From electrodes to effort belts, a single-use option is out there. “We frequently hear the most interest in disposable effort belts,” Blevins says. “We believe this is likely due to the additional effort to clean and more infection control concerns due to the porous fabric on reusable belts.”
But how does a sleep disorders center switch from reusables to disposables without disrupting workflow?
Transitioning to Disposable Sensors
Switching every sensor at once probably isn’t wise. While the learning curve isn’t steep, a lab can’t simply shut down to train technologists. According to Dana Burger-Dipzinski, vice president of business services at Electra-Med Corp, a full-service medical equipment and supply company, integrating the new sensors at a measured pace is the better choice.
“Try and plan when you have the time to trial different disposable options,” Burger-Dipzinski says. “You might want to start with one or two parameters at a time so your techs can master the application process of those before moving on.”
The timing might be as simple as replacing reusables as stock runs out or as the sensors on-hand stop working. “One advantage disposables have for transitioning is that you have multiple units on hand as opposed to one sensor per bed, so additional rooms can switch to the on-hand disposable sensors as the reusable ones fail,” Blevins says. “In general, it is best to change at a time when the lab typically has a lower census, when key personnel are not out on vacation, and when all staff are available for training to use the new sensors.”
With reusable sensors, maintaining needed stock is relatively simple. Having a few spare sleep kits available for each bed in the lab is generally enough. But single-use sleep sensors are different. How does a lab plan for adequate stock, particularly in light of worldwide supply chain shortages?
“If you can, stick with one vendor, for the most part, and one manufacturer that has a comprehensive line of all the required disposable sensors needed for a sleep study,” Eiken says. “You’re probably going to eliminate issues relating to availability. The idea of having multiple manufacturers—one for airflow, one for effort belts, one for EEG electrodes—you’re spending time placing orders for all of these. If you can get it all in one supplier, that’s going to minimize supply shortages and time spent.”
Supply vendors can answer questions about in-stock conditions and shipping times. Then decide how many disposables to keep on hand, Blevins says.
“We recommend keeping at least a month’s worth of supply to reduce shipping costs and account for any small delays in acquiring new sensors,” Blevins says. “Having a small cushion of stock helps avoid emergencies if sensors become temporarily back-ordered.
“Supply chain issues seemed less prevalent for disposable sensors than they were for reusable sensors. Supplier stock levels are generally more reliable now than they were during the pandemic but can vary by supplier.”
Burger-Dipzinski recommends keeping at least two months’ supply. But don’t overstock.“Things do expire,” she says.“However, you will always want to keep a backup stash or backup reusable sensor kit.
“The market has experienced backorders, and as a supplier and lab, it can be very frustrating,” says Burger-Dipzinski. “In many cases, we have alternatives if there is something experiencing delays, and we try and give you those options when we run into them.”
- Considerations for the practice of sleep medicine during COVID-19. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Updated 2021 Jan 18. Available at https://aasm.org/covid-19-resources/considerations-practice-sleep-medicine/