The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) this month published new quality measures for five common sleep disorders. The AASM says this represents a landmark achievement in the promotion of high-quality, patient-centered care in the medical subspecialty of sleep medicine.

The summary paper, “Measurement of Quality to Improve Care in Sleep Medicine,” was published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine along with five workgroup papers presenting outcome and process measures to aid in evaluating the quality of care of restless legs syndrome, insomnia, narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea in adults, and obstructive sleep apnea in children. Each paper describes the methods of development, explains the quality measures in detail, and suggests potential implementation strategies.

“The Affordable Care Act is accelerating the US healthcare system’s transition away from a volume-based, fee-for-service payment model by promoting the implementation of alternative payment models that reward physicians for the quality of care provided to their patients,” says AASM president Dr Timothy Morgenthaler, in a release. “Implementation of the AASM quality measures will be an essential step to move sleep health care forward in this new era of value-based care.”

Morgenthaler adds that chronic sleep diseases such as obstructive sleep apnea increase the risk of other costly health complications such as hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and depression. Therefore, sleep specialists are uniquely positioned to demonstrate the wide-reaching value of their care.

“The effective treatment of sleep apnea and other sleep diseases is critical to the success of our nation’s attempts to reduce health care spending and improve chronic disease management,” Morgenthaler says.

The AASM chartered five workgroups of sleep specialists in June 2013 to develop quality measures for assessment and management of common sleep disorders. For each workgroup, a literature review was performed to identify published evidence regarding the measurement of quality, care processes, or validated outcome tools. The AASM requested review of the draft measures and feedback from a variety of stakeholders including sleep specialists, primary care providers, other medical specialists, professional organizations, and patient advocacy groups.

As a result of his extensive experience championing quality improvement for Mayo Clinic, Morgenthaler was selected as chairman of the quality measures task force. In this role, he spearheaded development of the overall measurement strategy, led the education of workgroup members, and presented measures to the AASM board of directors.

According to Pediatric OSA Workgroup lead author Sanjeev V. Kothare, MD, director of the Pediatric Sleep Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, the new quality measures have important implications for both providers and patients. “Providers, especially those who don’t regularly diagnose OSA as part of their clinical practices, will have greater guidance in utilizing optimal detection and treatment processes,” he says. “Likewise, parents of OSA patients, as they become aware of the new metrics, will be more likely to confirm that the recommended steps are being taken by their child’s physician. And payors will benefit, too. They will be able to better monitor providers’ documented clinical processes. By observing the AASM-recommended quality metrics, providers also will avoid being penalized by insurers.”

The final quality measures were reviewed and approved by the AASM board of directors. The AASM recommends the use of these measures as part of a quality improvement program that will enhance the ability to improve the quality of care for patients with sleep disorders.

Promoting high-quality care in sleep medicine has always been a focus of the AASM, which accredited the first sleep center in 1977 and began developing evidence-based practice standards about 25 years ago. Today, more than 2,500 AASM-accredited sleep centers across the United States are providing exceptional care for people who suffer from a chronic sleep disease.