Growing Your Practice: Children's Sleep Center

Sleep disorder is a medical problem that can affect both adults and children. For the past few years, sleep centers or laboratories have been playing an important role in helping adults recover from sleeping problems like sleep apnea and insomnia. But off late, several medical professionals have been focusing on sleep-related problems in children, considering the negative effect these disorders can have in the development of a child. Children's sleep centers are mostly set up in pediatric hospitals. However, they can also be started and managed by independent sleep professionals who have the resources, and want to expand their operations and market reach.

Should you open your practice up to include children patients?

There are different ways to grow your practice as a sleep professional, of which setting up a pediatric sleep lab is one. However, you need to check if starting a pediatric sleep lab can really improve your practice and help your sleep center grow. To determine that, here are a few points you should consider. 

Demographics of the place

Having a pediatric ward in your sleep center can be a good idea if the percentage of children suffering from sleep disorders is high in the region. Although adding a children's sleep center can help you increase your revenue, you cannot expect it to be as profitable as an adult sleep center. This is because adding a children's ward involves in increased costs on the necessary equipment and personnel to manage it. In case the number of children with sleep disorders is less, adding a pediatric sleep lab may not really help your practice grow.

Availability of resources 

To determine whether or not you should have a sleep program for infants and children, you need to check if you have the necessary resources to cater to them. For a children's sleep lab, you need to have the right kind of equipment, trained sleep technicians who can conduct sleep study on children and an environment that is hazard free. Opening up your practice to children without the required resources is not a good idea, especially if you want to improve your practice. 

Open a new location for children patients or combine with current location?

If you want to include a children's program in your sleep center, you need to have the facility prepared for it. To diagnose and treat children with sleeping disorders, you need to make sure that the treatment facility and the surroundings are child-friendly. To determine whether you want to open a new sleep center for children, or offer a children's program at your current sleep center, you need to consider the following aspects.

Is the environment safe and Child-friendly?

Your sleep center should be safe and comfortable enough to accommodate both infants and children. The place should be free from elements that can be harmful for children. For example, the children's sleep center should have the electric outlets closed and any equipment that a child can harm itself with should be hidden or out of its reach. The rooms in the pediatric sleep lab should have cribs or beds with railings, to keep the children from falling.

The testing facility should also be child-friendly in terms of the environment. This could include use of colorful paint or wall papers, using posters with cartoons, having stuffed toys, play animals etc arranged in a play room, TV and DVD player with child-friendly videos etc.

Is it spacious enough?

Along with the testing facility, the sleep center should also have a separate toy or play room to keep kids occupied at times. The rooms should be soundproofed, appropriately furnished and big enough to accommodate the parent or the guardian of the child, who would sleep on a separate bed of recliner in the room. 

Does it accommodate children with special medical needs?

Some children may have other medical conditions along with sleep disorders, in which case, it is good to have your sleep center close to an emergency pediatric medical facility. If you want to offer the program in your existing facility, you should ensure to have emergency pediatric facilities for these children. Otherwise, it is best to have the sleep center at a new location, which is close to a pediatric hospital.

How dealing with children is different than adults?

Having a children's sleep center is a great way to help children with sleep disorders in your region. However, to offer children's programs, you need to have trained staff that is knowledgeable in pH probe insertion, and operation of the additional equipment (like esophageal pH meter, CO2 monitor and other emergency equipment).

While testing in adults and children is more or less the same, the application procedures and the scoring pattern are usually different. Sleep technicians who have to score the pediatric sleep studies should know about the sleeping stages in children, and should be able to perform and interpret sleep study in children.

All in all, starting a children's sleep center can definitely help you grow your practice. However, that can be possible only when you take the right steps for establishing it.

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