One physician’s experience illustrates the joy and challenges of launching your own clinic.

 Anne Turner, BA, RRT, RPSGT, is the center’s manager and one of the people helping Daniel Root, MD, make Oregon Sleep Associates a leading sleep center.

As is the case with many entre- preneurs, Daniel Root, MD, was inspired to open his own sleep center because he knew he could do better. “Many sleep labs I have worked in have not been as effectively patient friendly as I feel they should be,” he says. “My hope is to have a strategically located sleep center with modern technology that is also comfortable for patients.”

Rather than focusing solely on sleep studies, Root’s center—Oregon Sleep Associates in Portland—treats sleep apnea and insomnia and will eventually provide all services to pediatric patients.

Building a foundation
Root’s first step in making his dream a reality was surrounding himself with talent. His extensive networking helped him bring friendly, effective, and well-trained technicians on board. He also put in place a solid network of medical professionals, including dentists and ear, nose, and throat specialists, to handle necessary referrals.

With his team assembled, Root’s attention turned to finding an ideal space—one not only able to provide the room necessary to build his ideal sleep center, but with facilities available to accommodate the existing pulmonary practice he operates with his four partners.

In addition to eliminating lengthy commutes, positioning the pulmonary practice next to the new laboratory increased convenience for patients referred from his clinical practice. It also enabled Root to make use of existing billing and administrative resources on the pulmonary side, helping reduce expenses.

After a time-consuming search, his persistence paid off. Half of the space was already a medical practice, with three examination rooms, a counseling room, and two physician offices. Plans for the complete remodeling of the adjacent area converted it into an environment friendly to patients and technicians alike.

“Input from technicians was vital during the design phase, because though I visit the lab, our technicians live in the lab,” he explains. By collaborating with experienced technicians, Root created a welcoming space conducive to efficient workflow. “The control room is spacious and comfortable and has windows. We have also set aside a place to clean the equipment.”

After securing the office, the leasing agents presented an unexpected hurdle. “One of the biggest challenges was trying to get the leasing company thinking in terms of our 24-hour use activities,” he says. The ability to provide temperature control at night—something standard offices do not require—is just one example. “They had never done anything like a sleep lab before, so it took some work getting them to understand how important these things are to providing excellent patient care.”

Last, but certainly not least, Root set about determining what diagnostic equipment was the best fit. Regardless of which system a sleep center chooses, he advises physicians to familiarize themselves with it quickly.

“Make sure you are very comfortable with the use of the diagnostic equipment, because training technicians and learning new equipment at the same time can prove challenging,” he cautions.

Gears in Motion
Allowing time to ramp up slowly, Root opened with a soft launch, limiting sleep studies to 3 nights a week while staff was trained and any remaining kinks were worked out. Even without a full load at the sleep center, he found it necessary to adjust his schedule to accommodate the extra work.

“I realized I needed to slow down my clinical work for a little while,” he says. Beginning in late September of last year, Root scaled back his clinical office hours by about 60%, applying that time to solidify the center’s programs and processes. “You just have to accept that you are not going to be as busy clinically, but that is what you need to do in order to do it right. And that is where we are focusing our efforts—on doing it right.”

Dana Hinsley is a contributing writer for Sleep Review.