Last week the sleep medicine community was buzzing about a new $1.4 million grant for a sleep apnea program based at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. This new grant was focused on what seems to be an essential part of the sleep apnea treatment solution: trying to get people to use their CPAP.
The problem is that CPAP is so unpleasant to use that most people don’t. Neither the threat of sleep apnea’s dangers nor the possibility people might have to pay for or lose CPAP machines if they don’t use them can induce them to use the treatment. Instead, researchers hope that hooking people up with “peer buddies” will help them use their life-saving treatment. Instead of spending so much on CPAP support, it might make more sense to invest in CPAP alternatives.
Expanding on Previous Results
Implementing this strategy has been a long-time coming, as there have been several studies on the concept over the years, including a $2.5 million 2016 study. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), which funded both the 2016 study and the current rollout promotes the benefits of the system.
PCORI’s summary says that when the peer buddy system is used, patients:
- Have greater satisfaction with support (the primary goal of the study)
- Feel better about coordination of care
- Use their CPAP machines more often.
It’s noteworthy that two of the three positive effects are about making people feel better about their doctor and clinic. Only the third result points to actually improved treatment results.
How much did results improve? PCORI is vague on that point. Looking at some of the previous work can give us a clue, however. It seems that a 2013 study looking at military members showed people who had peer buddy support initially used their CPAP for an average of over 300 minutes a night. This declined to about 250 minutes a night by the end of the study, but that was still significantly higher than those who used CPAP without the support of a buddy, an average of about 90 minutes more per night.
Rolling Out the Treatment
The money in this grant is for implementing the “peer buddy” system in a hospital network with locations in six states, including Colorado. The Banner-University Medicine clinics conduct about 11,000 sleep studies a year, and serve about 9000 sleep apnea patients at their 11 locations.
There is no firm timetable on the rollout, and we will have to see how well the small study technique translates into serving a larger apneic population. Of course, there are other options to help people get the sleep apnea treatment they need.
Consider CPAP Alternatives
Of course, CPAP is not the only sleep apnea treatment. And while treatments like surgery might have disadvantages like high risk of complications, other alternatives might be easier to use and safer than surgery or CPAP: oral appliances.
Oral appliances work by repositioning your jaw to help your airway stay open at night. These devices are much more comfortable than CPAP, and are easier to use. This leads to much higher compliance rates, even without peer support. Measuring compliance in the same way as CPAP yields a compliance rate of about 95%, and 84% of appliance users use it all night every night. In comparison, less than half of CPAP users comply with CPAP using the traditional measurement.
With this improved compliance rate, it seems that more money should be going into simply educating people and doctors about the viability of oral appliance treatment.
Are You Looking for a CPAP Alternative in Denver?
If you have sleep apnea, and you’re unhappy with your CPAP, we have a better alternative that can help you get the necessary treatment for your sleep apnea so you can avoid the potentially deadly complications of sleep apnea.