A team-based approach delivers better care.

Sleep disorders lend themselves to a team-based approach.

One of the key things I’m reminded of daily in my practice, is that working as part of a team enables delivery of better care. Different team members have a range of skills and opinions that add great perspective or a new approach. Working closely with people from other health disciplines also provides an environment for learning new things, expanding knowledge, and research. 

As part of evaluating what we do in the clinic and how we can do better, this year we conducted an audit, looking at the sleep-related diagnoses in people coming to the clinic. The aim was to better understand the range of problems people were seeking help for, to ensure in the future we have the right staff and services to manage those problems.

We found that overall, around three quarters of the people coming to the clinic with symptoms or a diagnosis of sleep apnea, had an additional sleep disorder that also required treatment. Overall, around 80% of people coming to the clinic had a non sleep-apnea sleep related diagnosis, either in addition to sleep apnea, or without concomitant sleep apnea.

In the area of sleep medicine, there is a push to simplify treatment pathways. That push can come from third party payers, or from industry groups looking to sell a particular treatment. Assigning people a single diagnosis and then managing them in a formulaic way according to that diagnosis. However, our audit, and other research going back over the last 20 years, has shown that people with sleep-related symptoms who seek help at sleep clinics, often have a number of different contributing factors to their symptoms, and therefore don’t lend themselves well to managing individual disorders as isolated problems.

Whilst it is more expensive to run a practice with a team-based approach, and requires setting aside specific time to meet and discuss cases, it is an important part of adding quality and value in delivering healthcare. This is particularly the case when managing sleep disorders, which often have many components, and need healthcare professionals with complementary skills working together to complete the puzzle.

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