Male, slightly overweight, family history of heart disease, suffering from atrial fibrillation. There are around 6 million of those patients in the US alone and growing. There is a 50% chance that these patients also suffer from sleep apnea, which is described in the latest studies as a prominent risk factor and the potential underlying cause for the manifestation of the irregular heart rhythm. Despite this common knowledge, it is estimated that 80% of this group remain undiagnosed and untreated, mostly because they place their sleep apnea symptoms as secondary to their heart illness. These patients are typically referred to as a cardiologist to try and manage their irregular heart rhythm and the risk of stroke that it carries. It is common sense that cardiologists will step in and educate the patients about the fact that their sleep apnea issues are related to their heart illness, and offer an easy diagnosis. Once formally educated and diagnosed, it is much more likely that an AFIB patient will be interested in managing this aspect of the disease. What is not obvious is the availability of resources and the focus of the cardiologist to engage in sleep apnea diagnosis.
The WatchPAT® Direct program streamlines the home sleep apnea testing process for both prescribing physicians and their patients by providing a mail-order-like home delivery service model for the WatchPAT® sleep apnea testing device to the patient. The WatchPAT® device is easy to use and is applied just like wearing a wristwatch, with a simple finger sensor. For physicians, the WatchPAT® direct program provides a scalable, cost-effective, and almost resource free solution to ensure their patients are being diagnosed for this emerging cardiac risk factor, sleep apnea, especially for high volume practices. For patients, the WatchPAT® direct program is convenient and comfortable and eliminates the need to drive back and forth to the cardiology practice, which in turn promotes better patient compliance with the program. WatchPAT® direct shipment can be scheduled immediately or when needed upon insurance pre-authorization—so doctors and patients quickly receive the information they need.
THE WATCHPAT® DIRECT PROGRAM
The WatchPAT® Direct Home Sleep Testing program is as simple for cardiologists as clicking a button. After suspecting clinical signs and symptoms of sleep apnea by reviewing a STOP-BANG questionnaire results, and after receiving insurance pre-authorization for the test, the participating practice can log into the Itamar® CloudPAT HIPAA-compliant physician portal, enter details about the patient’s information and click “order”.
Itamar® then manages the entire logistical process and immediately prepares a testing kit to ship to its destination. The company handles all patient contact to ensure the test is efficiently and appropriately completed. As part of the program, a dedicated WatchPAT® Direct representative personally calls every patient to confirm a delivery date and to provide instructions for the testing. Itamar® also operates a patient call-in helpdesk until 2 am EST where operators are available to assist and answer questions, to complement the step-by-step illustrated test instructions shipped with the device.
During the testing, the WatchPAT® device stores all patient data as it is acquired. When testing is complete, the patient repacks the device in the original container for shipping back to Itamar using a pre-addressed and pre-paid label. An Itamar representative also calls the patient to ensure that they’ve completed the test and returned the device.
Immediately after receiving the device, Itamar staff upload the patient’s data to CloudPAT, the same HIPAA-compliant web-based cloud application platform the cardiologist used to order the test. An automated scoring and raw report are then created automatically by the system in few minutes and emailed to the sleep expert for review and, if needed, a prescription for appropriate therapy.
On average, 3 days after the device is returned to the WatchPAT® direct operational center in Atlanta, the cardiologists receive an email that the sleep report is available through the CloudPAT portal. By contrast, the same testing process can take weeks or even months through traditional referral to a sleep practice. The easy-to-read report includes a mapping of patient sleep stages, the main indices of critical respiratory events, such as AHI, oxygen saturation statistics and much more. The report is downloadable through the CloudPAT portal and can also be sent directly to sleep specialists so they can follow up on the patient.
For physicians, using the WatchPAT® Direct program to carry out home sleep testing for their patients offers a major time-to-treatment advantage because the test can be administered quickly, and results are available within a few days. Itamar manages the entire process, from the moment they receive the order for a patient to delivery of the interpreted report. The WatchPAT® Direct program also requires no upfront investment on the part of the physician or hospital—all equipment is rented per test, maintained, and managed by Itamar.
A patient survey shipped with the device indicates that patients appreciate the ease of testing at home, the simplicity of the WatchPAT® device, and the comfort of the WatchPAT® direct operation.
“A WIN-WIN” FOR PHYSICIANS AND PATIENTS
Dr. Hitendra Patel, lead physician of WellStar pulmonary medicine in Georgia and medical director of their sleep program, calls WatchPAT® Direct “a win-win all around.” When Wellstar first partnered with Itamar, they purchased WatchPAT® devices and distributed them to patients through their offices. To better serve Wellstar’s multiple remote locations, each with extended catchment areas, Patel and his staff worked with Itamar on the development of WatchPAT® Direct, and, according to Patel, “the ship to patient direct took off like gangbusters.”
With WatchPAT® Direct, Itamar is making the entire home sleep apnea testing process fast and convenient, helping sleep specialists, cardiologists, and others to enhance patient care by integrating in-home sleep testing into their practices.