Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that affects millions of people. The obstructed breathing that is characteristic of this condition will disrupt the sleep of the individual several times throughout the night, and this results in a life of poor sleep and general exhaustion.
One of the most concerning issues with sleep apnea is that it often goes undetected. There are no signs for a doctor to detect when you are getting a physical, and it does not show up in any form of routine testing.
With children, the problems related to detection are even worse, and this has led many to question whether new standards are needed in regard to diagnosis and treatment.
AASM Endorsed New Quality Measures
With the problems of detection becoming apparent to many of the professionals in sleep medicine, a workgroup was formed to evaluate the current practices and to make recommendations for new standards.
Under commission from the American Association of Sleep Medicine (AASM), this group included many of the top experts in the field. The new measures outlined by these experts have been endorsed by the AASM and were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
What is Different with the New Measures?
Under the current framework, there are several different guidelines for diagnosing and treating sleep apnea in children.
The goal of the new guidelines that are being recommended by the AASM is to measure and track the quality of detection and treatment solutions that are being offered by medical professionals.
The members of the workgroup and the AASM believe that with this new set of standards, guidelines for detection and treatment are more likely to be followed, with the result being an increased likelihood of detection and more successful treatment solutions.
With the new guidelines, there will be some changes for patients and service providers. Currently, a child is unlikely to see a doctor who treats sleep apnea as a regular part of their practice.
The framework being endorsed by the AASM will provide these doctors with better guidance on assessment and treatment which should help to improve their ability to diagnose earlier. The parents of these children can also rest assured that a more standardized set of practices is being followed by their doctor.
Additionally, insurers will be able to better monitor the practices of doctors in this regard. With practitioners following the recommended metrics, they will be able to avoid potential penalties from insurers and the insurer will be confident that the doctor is following the best practices.
How the New Measures were Developed
The new measures were first developed with the recognition that there were shortcomings in the current system. Different doctors may have different methods of detection and ideas about treatment, which meant that the result could often be dependent upon where an individual went for care.
With the new measures, the idea is to still allow clinicians necessary flexibility while also ensuring that they adhere to some minimal standards. In the development of the new metrics, the workgroup reviewed journal articles that focused on certain factors of the treatment and detection of OSA, with a specific focus on the link between outcomes and the practices of clinicians.
In this examination of the peer-reviewed literature, the workgroup identified a series of processes that could lead to outcomes that are more desirable for patients.
The team from the workgroup believes that their guidelines will have benefits for patients and doctors.
Firstly, they believe that following these new practices will make for better abilities to detect OSA in children. Second, if followed correctly, there should also be a reduction in the symptoms that come with sleep apnea.
The truth of the matter is that sleep apnea in children is an under-recognized issue. A failure to detect sleep apnea in a child can have serious consequences for their health, not only in the present, but also for the entire lifetime of the individual.
With new standards, children that suffer from OSA will have a better chance of getting a diagnosis that will make a major difference in their life; just as importantly, it will be much more likely that these children get the appropriate care.
If you or a loved one is suffering from sleep issues, please don’t wait to seek help. Ask your doctor if a sleep study is right for you!