Sleep Medicine: Past Achievements and Future Concerns

Six years ago, following Dr. William Dement call for public education, a group of enthusiasts in the Chicago area created a “sleep” education newspaper for the public.

The internet and big journals are trying to kill papers, but newspapers are still very important “communicators” with the public in providing messages using simple, timely and clear means. “Sleep and Health” is providing readers with friendly but credible education about sleep and its disorders, informing about credible sleep related services and products, helping people by direct interactions through the letters to Dr. Sleep.

One of the most important missions of the paper is to communicate public concerns to health policy makers by publishing people’s opinions in Sleep and Health as an independent Public Forum.

Sleep Medicine has the glorious past and we should be rightfully proud of it.

The time, however, is moving forward and we are facing the challenging New Year ahead of us. At the present stage of the Health Care crisis, the role of “Sleep and Health” as a public media became even more important for Sleep Medicine as the specific medical field with its own internal and controversial issues.

Below are just a few potentially serious issues that sleep practitioners are very concerned about as well as ideas about how the Sleep and Health publication could help.

There is no internal unity among sleep specialists or sleep centers.
Distinguished sleep specialists from the different sleep centers in the same city rarely or never talk to each other and are in an unfriendly, competitive stance.

The ideas of patients about improving sleep products are generally ignored by sleep doctors and manufacturers alike.

Sleep and Health sees its mission in UNITING sleep centers by friendly descriptions of each lab’s strength and specific focuses, by featuring sleep specialists, technicians, product inventors in the personal journalistic style, not just by formal bios. Sleep and Health is enhancing communication between medical community, industry and the public (prospective patients).

There is no more unified leadership on a national level.
When the new field – Sleep Medicine – has developed, thanks to Dr. Dement’s vision, personal charisma, dedication, and organizational talent, his leadership sparked the curiosity and enthusiasm of the nation about sleep. His and his followers’ first mission – to create public awareness and to have an organized sleep community has been achieved!

Now everyone knows about sleep. The media is using “sleep” on its own instead of the field of sleep luring the attention of the media. Sleep centers are mushrooming to the level of “overproduction.” In the Chicago area alone, there are about 50 sleep centers. What is next? The Academy and Sleep Network split the “power.” The Academy will accredit sleep centers, and the Sleep Network will provide Board certifications. It is a really great achievement, because Sleep Medicine became a part of Medical Specialties.

The problem is that the general public does not know about it and does not see the difference. Accreditations of sleep centers do not have real credibility or financial weight in the eyes of the public (patients) or the third party payers anymore.

Sleep and Health sees its goal now as providing two-way communications between public and different leading institutions (Academy of Sleep Medicine, Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, Sleep Network, etc).

Sleep and Health is already perceived by the “big media” as the “sleep public paper” and will continue enhance the image of Sleep Medicine among public and health care policy makers.

Technology and Payers might cut financial basis of Sleep Medicine.
Sleep apnea is the present cornerstone of sleep medicine clinically and financially.

What if diagnostic studies and treatments of apneas will not be financially covered as much as they are now? What will be the next financial and clinical “cornerstone” of Sleep Medicine? Automated technology for diagnosing and treating apnea is developing in high speed. Sleep studies in the stationary labs will soon be obsolete. AutoPAP devices will substitute lab titrations. Insurances will soon “dry out” their coverage and the sleep industry will not be dependant any longer on the sleep specialists’ referrals.

Introduction of home sleep studies is generally a good thing, but it will also introduce confusion and produce the milky cloud of mobile test takers separated from the sleep governing institutions.

Sleep and Health, as an independent “sleep public media,” is creating the “Consumers Services and Product Review” section to become the real mediator between the public, medical sleep community, industry, and insurers.

In short, Sleep and Health as an independent public newspaper that is free from institutional or academic politics and legal restraints is able to prevent a possible “identity crisis,” to discuss controversial issues openly and to unite opposite schools in the search for solutions.

We are asking sleep specialists and the industry leaders unite around Sleep and Health. With your help Sleep and Health could grow to the level of a serious public sleep media with ties to other public media “moguls,” and became a powerful but controlled force in the health politics protecting sleep medicine from any hostile inside and outside forces.

Good Luck and Best Wishes in the New Year to All!

Staff of “Sleep and Health”