With an eye-catching headline that labels home sleep testing as “controversial,” Kentucky’s Courier-Journal once again shines a light on obstructive sleep apnea. Physicians deemed “skeptical” of home sleep testing are quoted throughout.
“We order some at-home tests…But unfortunately, a lot of that is driven by insurance,” says Dr. Subin Jain, a partner at Louisville Pulmonary Care and director of the Baptist Health Louisville Sleep Disorders Center. “It’s increasingly difficult to have studies done in the lab. The amount of data (from a home study) is significantly less than what you’d get in the lab.”
The article goes on to document insurance company efforts to steer patients toward home testing for financial reasons, noting that home sleep tests cost about $200 to $400, compared with lab tests that “can range from $600 in a free-standing sleep center to around $1,300 in a hospital.”
Home study proponents in the article bring up the fact that home tests can be especially helpful for patients who live far from sleep centers, or who are intimidated by laboratory settings. Reporter Laura Ungar also references a widely reported June 2012 study in the journal Sleep, which concluded that home testing was “not inferior in terms of acceptance, adherence, time to treatment and functional improvements.”
The New England Comparative Effectiveness Public Advisory Council, which considers benefits and value of medical innovations, also voted in January that home sleep testing was “functionally equivalent” to lab tests for diagnosing sleep apnea in appropriate patients.