OSA Treatment for the Underserved
I understand there is a lack of education about sleep testing, and I understand that many people have high deductibles or no insurance. What I do not understand is the recent influx of patients who have a machine they bought on eBay, at a garage sale, or got from a relative and then bring it into my lab and want me to get the supplies and set to the right pressure.
The lack of education is probably the hardest to deal with. This seems to be difficult with the lower income patients in our area. The county has a health center, and unfortunately, the physicians, PAs, and nurse practitioners are not as well-educated in sleep as the community needs. I also have found that the immigrant community seems to be the ones most likely to buy a used CPAP machine.
A recent patient is the perfect example of this problem. He said he got the (supposedly new) machine from his sister. In actuality, the machine was quite old and not being manufactured anymore. It had a passover humidifier and the tubing was old and brittle. He asked where he could get a new tube to connect the humidifier to the machine. He did not have a mask either. The patient then said that his sister told him all he needed to do was wear it at night sleeping sitting up and it would take care of his snoring and sleep problems.
I explained that he had the incorrect information and that the machine's pressure is set according to a study. I asked if he had insurance and said he should start with his doctor. I hope he will go but likely he won't. Many immigrant workers here fear of getting caught in the system. He probably does not have a lot of money and he is not sure who he can trust other than his family.
I hope at some point we will be able to find a way to supply education, sleep studies, and equipment to these underserved patients. We have great health care in America, but it seems that preventative care such as sleep apnea treatments are overlooked for those who do not know what questions to ask.
Are more people turning to used equipment in your area? How do you handle these situations?