Be proactive about sleep apnea education for patients and their partners
Few things are more annoying than a spouse who snores, disrupting both partners’ sleep. As ENTs know, snoring can be a sign of a more serious condition: sleep apnea. Given that as many as 80 percent of sleep apnea cases are undiagnosed, however, many people are not aware of the signs and potential severity of this common condition, or that an ENT can help. And some people may have tried treatment in the past, such as CPAP, and not found lasting relief.
Raising awareness about sleep apnea and newer treatment options can encourage patients—or their partners—to schedule an appointment.
When snoring is more than just a nuisance
Sleep apnea affects an estimated 30 million Americans. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 80 percent of cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed. While sleep apnea can affect people of any age, it is most frequently seen in men over 40, especially those who are overweight or obese.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type experienced, is defined as the narrowing or blockage of the airway when the muscles and soft tissue in the back of the throat relax during sleep, which can cause breathing to stop momentarily. This video can help illustrate OSA for patients.
Patients may not know that when left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to heart problems and other serious health issues.
Patients and their loved ones need to know that OSA is not just a nuisance, it can be life-threatening. When left untreated, OSA can lead to high blood pressure, chronic heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. It is also associated with type 2 diabetes and depression, and is a factor in many traffic accidents and accidents with heavy machinery, due to persistent drowsiness caused by interrupted sleep.
Messaging strategies to engage more patients—and their partners
To reach the most patients, use common phrases rather than clinical terms on your website, social media pages, and emails to patients. For instance, talk about “snoring” and “sleep disturbances” rather than the condition (sleep apnea) to get patients interested in learning more. Consider playing a video in your waiting room to engage patients who are there to see a doctor for other reasons.
Promote sleep apnea treatment to patients’ partners: ‘The best present is the gift of better sleep for both of you!’
A sleep study is the first step in diagnosing sleep apnea, but patients may not be aware that an at-home sleep study is possible. Suggest this as a more comfortable option than sleeping overnight in a lab.
Target your outreach efforts to spouses, family members, and caregivers as well, not just the patients themselves. Promote sleep apnea treatment as a gift to your partner. (“The best Valentine’s Day or birthday gift is the gift of good sleep!”)
Treatments provided by ENTs
Patients may not know about the range of sleep apnea treatments available now, and that addressing the condition may be as simple as losing weight or as complex as surgery. Here are some talking points and videos for your discussions with patients.
There are a number of behavioral changes that can help patients reduce their snoring and improve sleep apnea symptoms. Advise overweight patients to lose weight, and let them know that quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol also benefit overall health and may improve sleep apnea symptoms. Suggest to patients with allergies that taking a decongestant before they go to bed may help improve airflow, as can nasal spray or nasal strips. Share this video to remind patients it’s never too late to improve your health.
Tell patients that even if they were unsuccessful sleeping with a CPAP mask in the past, they may find a solution with one of the newer options available.
Many people have heard of CPAP machines but may not know exactly what the acronym means or how it works. You can explain that continuous positive airway pressure technology has made great advancements in the last few years. Newer masks fit more comfortably and provide just the right amount of positive pressure you need to keep airways open and reduce or eliminate snoring. Let patients know that even if they were unsuccessful sleeping with a CPAP mask previously, they may find a solution with one of the more modern options now available.
This video can show patients various CPAP devices.
If a CPAP device isn’t effective at stopping snoring, let patients know that surgery can be performed to correct structural problems of the nose and throat and bring them permanent relief. Whether you recommend uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) to remove or remodel tissue in the throat to open the airway, or septoplasty to straighten the septum, the bone and cartilage between the nostrils, Rendia offers a range of videos that can accompany your treatment conversations with patients.
See how Rendia helps you distill complex information to patients, both new and established, to help you communicate efficiently and effectively. Visit our website