Use technology to reach more patients for sleep apnea care

With an active social network, you can continue to reach your patients and even medical professionals with important information. From sharing educational blog posts to statuses about your practice, and even articles from around the Internet, your social network stands as a vital go-between you and your patients. Let’s take a look at how you can re-examine your social network to help reach more patients for sleep apnea care.

Post consistently. By understanding when people are utilizing the Internet, you can plan out your sharing and posting. For example, most people will go on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when they first wake up in the morning, at lunch time, after work and then again before bed. If you stick to a time around those indicated, you can further improve your outreach to your patients.

Share important information. Pay close attention to what you are sharing on your social network. Is the information you are posting relatable for your patients? Is it something they really want to know? Think about questions that your patients frequently ask you and utilize information that answers those questions. You can help educate your patients about dental sleep medicine by answering questions, providing resources, sharing images and giving tips.

Social media is the easiest way to educate your patients on your specific area of interest, including sleep apnea or craniofacial pain. Whether you share outside articles or write your own, these social channels are available for you to further reach your patients in any way possible. Let them know that you are available and listening.

Don’t overlook this connection between sleep troubles and stroke

Getting a good night’s sleep is so important for our patients. However, it can often be difficult to come to for some. Sleeping well at night can help prevent stroke, while getting a good night’s rest can be hard for stroke survivors. Studies have looked at the association between stroke and sleep, but doctors continue to overlook that connection between sleep disorders and stroke.

According to a review published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, 50% of stroke survivors have some type of sleep problem. Unfortunately, very few get formally tested because of a lack of awareness among stroke providers.

Sleep disturbances worsen

In addition to increasing a person’s risk for stroke, sleep disturbances may also worsen after a stroke. Remedies to reduce sleep impairments can help prevent a first or subsequent stroke. The report found that more than 70% of stroke survivors have obstructive sleep apnea. One study even found that people with OSA had a nearly twofold increase in stroke or death.

For patients with OSA, it can lead to high blood pressure or hypertension, which may be a reason why some doctors miss this connection. High blood pressure is the strongest risk factor for stroke. However, another big contributor is obesity. Both of these conditions are strongly associated with sleep apnea.  

While it is important to treat sleep apnea in general, it is even more vital that we treat sleep apnea in those who have already had a stroke. Continuous positive airway pressure machines are often the first choice for treatment, but oral appliance therapy might also be a viable option too. Make sure you talk to your patients about oral appliance therapy to ensure they are getting the best care possible. 

What other ways can you make sure your patients are getting the care they need? It is important for us to identify these patients and provide proper care.

 

Here’s how to generate physician referrals

Are you ready to get new patients for sleep apnea or craniofacial pain treatment? Now is the time to get your practice noticed. It is important to establish a working relationship with your local physicians. This is essential for generating patient referrals, which are key to keeping your dental sleep medicine and/or craniofacial pain practice alive. To help you with generating physician referrals, here are four things you can do now to establish a strong working relationship.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

This step is so important I had to say it three times, “Prepare, prepare and prepare.” When speaking with a physician you only get a short time frame to share what you need to say. To make the most of those short minutes, prepare something to say that won’t take up too much time. Think of an elevator ride. What can you say in that short ride to the fifth or tenth floor?

Think about a couple of bullet points that you want to make sure you hit. These points should be tailored to the physician’s specialty. For example, ENTs will want to know more about how you are offering oral appliances and how these devices can be tried before recommending surgery. If you are talking to a family physician, think about sharing how it may take a long time for patients to get into a sleep clinic for further testing. And if you are speaking with a cardiologist, discuss atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, hypertension or any other sleep apnea comorbidities.

Invite physicians to a lunch and learn

Everyone loves a lunch and learn, right? Think about it. If you can find a convenient time for physicians in your community to pop in for a quick presentation and lunch, they would remember it. This is a chance for you to get to know the other health care providers in your community, while also educating their teams on the benefits of oral appliance therapy for treatment of sleep apnea or temporomandibular joint disorder.

Use this time to answer questions about insurance benefits, how it works and how they can refer. Don’t forget to invite your team too–they are there to mingle and learn as well. And make sure you bring some marketing materials with you to share. This allows the physicians to bring something back with them.

Visit the office

Sometimes you just have to go straight to the source. If you want to reach out, feel free to stop into a physician’s office to drop off marketing materials or have a quick chat with the doctor. This allows you to share important information without completely disrupting their day. You should include the latest American Academy of Sleep Medicine guidelines that list oral appliance therapy as a successful treatment option. You should also share your services and how you can help their patients too. One way to really catch their eye is to personalize the marketing materials you share with them. Try to include a handwritten note to each physician.

Refer patients back

This relationship goes both ways. If the physician is referring patients to you and you are doing nothing in return, what good will that do? This is a time to establish a strong working relationship and if you are referring patients back to them, it is a win-win for both offices. You want them to feel like the relationship is one of collaboration and that you are caring for patients as a team.

Tell your patients: Losing just 16 minutes of sleep is bad

It is important for our patients to know that even just losing a little bit of sleep at night can affect how productive you are at work. In fact, losing just 16 minutes of sleep is bad. It can play a negative role in your patient’s daily life.

A study from researchers at the University of South Florida looked at 130 employees who work in information technology and have at least one child in school. Over the course of eight days, participants logged how much they slept and answer a series of questions.

What the results showed

Questions in the survey focused on how often participants experienced off-task or distracting thoughts during the day on a scale of zero to four. The results showed that participants who lost as little as 16 minutes of sleep on a  nightly basis had more distracting thoughts. This made it more difficult for them to finish their tasks at work.

For adults older than 18 years old, it is important to get at least seven hours of sleep a night, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, though, about one-third of Americans are not getting that required amount of sleep per night.

We need to make sure our patients are getting an appropriate amount of sleep each night to ensure their health and well-being.