Best Practice Solutions for Managing Multiple Sleep Centers

Most people have an intuitive appreciation for the importance of the right amount of sleep. Yet we are facing a problem with sleep depravation in this country that some would say is reaching epidemic proportions. This is why the sleep business is taking off, and no doubt why your own sleep center is probably doing well. They are likely doing so well in fact, that you may be considering opening, or you are already operating, additional sleep labs.

However, managing multiple locations can be complicated. The most direct result of expansion is that you will likely be forced to manage employees at distant offices. Your biggest challenge there will be how to make sure to retain a sense of cohesion, and maintain the feeling that all employees, no matter where they work, are on the same team with the same set of goals. Many believe the key to such human resource issues is to have systems in place that are easily repeatable and duplicatable. There is an old adage in business which states that systems run successful organizations, and people run successful systems.

Proper technology is an important tool in integrating your business plan, branding, and marketing, across multiple locations. However, most experts agree that there is nothing like face-to-face communication. You should plan on having complete staff meetings with personnel from all locations at least once or twice per year.

 Value Added Services

A Sleep Management Solution, such as SLaM, can help you to easily replicate what your patients and referring physicians have come to expect across multiple locations. However, expansion can also provide an opportunity to not just create exact duplicates of your original lab, but offer some additional and unique services at one or more of your multiple locations. Some Value Added Services to consider are:

  • Adding a consulting Certified Respiratory Therapist to deal with CPAP/Bi-PAP issues. In today's highly competitive atmosphere, the survival of any healthcare facility is largely dependent on your ability to give more to the patients, without increasing costs. Adding technicians with a broader background and ability to diagnose and treat a greater variety of conditions is great multiple location strategy. This way you can distinguish one facility from the other, or refer patients from one facility to the other that has the more advanced training and abilities. 
  • Portable or Home Diagnostics and Testing. There has been speculation that CMS’s recent decision to allow for reimbursement for CPAP equipment will cut into Sleep Lab business. However, when leveraged properly, for example by offering patients the option, to home test, and to provide them with the equipment, you can actually increase your business.
  • Offer On-site educational visits to transportation businesses or other businesses severely impacted by sleep deprivation. Again setting up one of your centers as an “Educational Center”, while keeping your original location more  purely clinical, is a way to distinguish one from the other and build cross-references for both.
  • Consider partnering with psychologists or other stress reduction specialists who deal with sleep issues. Partnering with any ancillary healthcare providers allows you to offer more to your patients, as well as increase referrals.
  • Add a retail center that sells books, and sleep related products. The market for sleep related products is “booming,” thanks to the growing number of aging baby boomers who have disposal income and a growing demand for a good night's sleep. 

 Current and Future Markets

Conservative estimates are that there are currently 15 to 18 million people in the U.S. with sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, and cardio vascular disease. The demand for sleep medicine services has grown significantly in the last decade. There are many factors contributing to this growth, not the least of which is the recognition of an increased number of sleep disorders. Over a four-year period between 2000 and 2004, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that the number of sleep studies performed more than doubled. In addition, CMS reports that since 2000 the number of reimbursements for CPAP devices continues to rise at an annual rate of 10% to 15% per year. 

Despite the recent economic downturn that has curtailed the growth of sleep centers somewhat, the market still appears very strong.  Hospitals in particular continue to find an increasing market to outsource for the treatment and diagnosis of sleep disorders, particularly sleep apnea linked to pulmonary conditions. As boomers age, and obesity has increased, nationwide sleep disorders are becoming more frequent. Even though the last decade has seen an increase in the number of Sleep Centers opened, and sleep studies performed, indications are there still may be a shortage of sleep medicine facilities.

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