A survey conducted by the American Alliance for Healthy Sleep (AAHS) suggests that patients need more access to affordable sleep care and accurate sleep health information.
Forty-eight percent of respondents indicated that their primary care physician has never asked questions about sleep during consultations or physical exams. What’s more, 78% of respondents reported that cost affects their decision to seek medical care. More than half of respondents—54%—were unaware of whether sleep services are covered by their insurance.
“Millions of people in the US have a sleep disorder that impairs their health, well-being, safety and performance,” says AAHS chair Patti Van Landingham, who has been living with narcolepsy for decades, in a release. “It is critical for people who have a sleep disorder to receive accurate health information, and they need convenient access to affordable, patient-centered medical care from knowledgeable health care professionals who understand the importance of healthy sleep.”
AAHS conducted the survey as part of its “Access to Information…Access to Care” awareness campaign, seeking to establish how the AAHS may improve access to care for patients with sleep disorders. The 20-question, online survey was completed in September and October by patients and health care professionals in the sleep field.
Responses were gathered from 289 participants, including 204 who answered all general survey questions. Sixty-six percent of respondents were female, and 43% of respondents indicated that they have a diagnosed sleep disorder. Seventeen percent of those who have a sleep disorder reported that they are unable to afford their medication or therapy.
Regarding access to sleep health information, 75% of respondents indicated that they have actively searched for sleep health information in the past. However, 59% reported that additional resources are needed pertaining to sleep or sleep health, including more educational resources on sleep topics and improved sleep education for medical professionals.
Based on the survey results, the AAHS identified the following issues that must be addressed to improve access to sleep care:
- Primary care providers and family physicians need additional sleep education. This may include both formal education during medical training and continuing education.
- Patients need increased understanding of insurance coverage of sleep services/treatments.
- Programs are needed to help cover sleep care costs for those who do not have insurance or whose insurance does not cover sleep testing/treatments.
- Both patients and primary care providers/family physicians need increased awareness of the availability of local sleep services.
- Insurance policies need to be reviewed to determine where additional coverage for sleep services/treatment is needed.
- More research is needed to explore alternative or improved therapies for sleep disorders, especially for patients for whom traditional therapies fail.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine established the patient-focused membership organization American Alliance for Healthy Sleep about a year ago.