RT interviews David Lawson, CFO, Compumedics Limited.

 Still in its infancy, the sleep disorder diagnostic and treatment industry has seen a significant number of innovations, says Compumedics Limited CFO David Lawson. Advanced technology allows data to be stored and processed rapidly during a polysomnographic study, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and masks have evolved quickly to improve patient comfort and compliance. RT spoke with Lawson about forthcoming industry trends.

Q: The sleep field is obviously expanding, but is it changing in other ways?
Much of the diagnostic side of the sleep disorders business has focused thus far on setting up amplifiers beside beds and scoring studies. This has largely been done on a bed-by-bed basis. Over the next few years, additional focus will be given to data management and the application of the technology across networks to centralize those aspects of sleep diagnosis that can be centralized.

This gives rise to a whole new range of issues for players in the diagnostic end of the sleep disorders business. Consequently, a new range of technologies needs to be developed to address the efficiency issues inherent here, and this, in turn, requires an evolving skill set within the industry and its participants.

From a market and clinical practice point of view, the focus also is moving to the other types of sleep disorders and the treatment regimes for these. In addition, finding new treatment methods for the main sleep disorders is also emerging as a focus area for the industry.

Q: Is home testing becoming more popular?
Home testing has real potential to remove the bottleneck that currently exists with the more than 15 million undiagnosed Americans who suffer some form of sleep disorder. The application of home testing in the United States is relatively limited, however, due to the reimbursement regime that currently exists. Full reimbursement can be claimed only when a sleep study is attended. That means a sleep physician or clinical staff member is on hand during the sleep study. Finding enough of these suitably qualified people is part of the bottleneck.

Home testing will come into its own once the technology and medical/legal worlds reach a workable way to go forward. Europe is a good example of a marketplace that has embraced home testing.

Q: What innovations do you foresee in the sleep arena?
In the future we will see greater use of networked technology for diagnosis, particularly with the application of HIPAA regulations and the need to move around and store large quantities of data collected for each sleep patient. You will also see a move to smaller devices in anticipation of home studies or partially attended studies being allowed, with the clear focus being on moving more people through the diagnosis protocol.

Finally, we already are seeing through the linkages of sleep disorders to neurological and cardiac diseases that sleep disorders are often a precursor to these and other diseases. As such, the technology and the industry will move to understand these linkages and come up with innovative solutions to address them.