Stronger industry standards mean people with sleep apnea can rest easier

November 26, 2021 at 3:26 pm  BC, News, Politics

People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) will have a greater level of comfort going for tests at clinics in B.C. as government provides stronger oversight of testing facilities and support by allowing accredited clinics to bill through Medical Services Plan (MSP).

OSA causes people to repeatedly stop and start breathing while sleeping. Severe cases include more than 30 breathing stops per hour. Some patients have been known to have more than 70 an hour.

“Approximately 629,000 people in B.C. live with obstructive sleep apnea and we know it can be serious and lead to sleep deprivation and poor cardiovascular health,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This is why the Province is regulating home sleep apnea testing facilities and requiring them to be accredited through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. to continue operating in the province to better support and improve the quality of services provided to people with OSA.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, qualifying accredited home sleep apnea testing facilities can bill the MSP. To support this change, the Province is investing up to approximately $5 million a year. This will help ensure that people benefit from the professional standards that accreditation requires, such as a qualified medical director, interpreting doctor and technical staff. It also allows government to collect reliable testing data, which was previously unavailable, and helps create consistent access to care for people.

“Facility accreditation is an important step to bring the home sleep apnea testing industry into the mainstream health sector, while improving clinical consistency and enhancing patient confidence. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., through our Diagnostic Accreditation Program, has been pleased to work with the ministry to achieve these results,” said Dr. Michael Murray, deputy registrar, accreditation programs, College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

To improve doctor-referring practices and reduce inappropriate referrals and repeat testing, steps have also been taken to help provide information to doctors, such as through the development of a provincial standard requisition form for home sleep apnea testing and a clinical guideline, called Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Assessment and Management in Adults.

These changes are the result of a Ministry of Health review on diagnostic sleep testing in B.C., which began in 2019. At the time of the review, there were approximately 250 unregulated facilities in B.C. Through industry consolidation, 179 home sleep apnea testing facilities have successfully completed accreditation requirements.

Consultation on the changes was done with representatives from the home sleep apnea testing industry, family and sleep disorder doctors and the Patient Voices Network.

Quick Facts:

  • In B.C., it’s estimated that 24% of people between 30 and 69, or approximately 629,000 people have some form of OSA.  
  • The prevalence of moderate to severe OSA is around 5% or about 123,000 people.
  • Older men are most susceptible, as well as people with excess weight.
  • A home sleep apnea test includes a kit that records breathing activity, oxygen levels and heart rate throughout the night.
  • Home sleep apnea testing is best suited for people at an increased risk for moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea and must be ordered by a physician or nurse practitioner, through a referral to an accredited facility.

Learn More:

The Diagnostic Sleep Medicine Review is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/practitioner-pro/medical-services-plan/diagnostic-facilities/diagnostic-sleep-medicine-report.pdf

The Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Assessment and Management in Adults clinical guideline is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/practitioner-professional-resources/bc-guidelines/sleep-apnea

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