As we approach the end of 2021, I want to highlight some of the progress we have seen in the last few months through various AASM initiatives. While this fall has been challenging in numerous ways for our members and our patients, there have been many positive developments as we continue advancing sleep care and enhancing sleep health to improve lives. The ability of our members to continue to provide quality sleep care to patients despite many obstacles is a testament to your resiliency and dedication to our specialty.
PAP Device Recall
The Philips PAP device recall was announced early in the summer, and in the ensuring months it has continued to be the dominant issue affecting our members and patients. In addition to developing guidance for members, the AASM has had two meetings with FDA representatives, during which we emphasized how the recall is having a detrimental impact on both patients and sleep medicine professionals. One of our complaints was resolved when Philips agreed to update its recall notification in November to align with FDA recommendations by advising patients who have a recalled device to consult with their physician on a suitable treatment plan. (The original notification told patients to discontinue use of their device.) Concerns raised by a recent FDA inspection report, the slow pace of device repair and replacement, and supply chain shortages remain troubling. The recall is a top advocacy priority for the AASM in the months ahead as we work collaboratively with other medical specialty societies and patient advocacy groups.
Patient Advocacy Roundtable
In August the Academy launched a new Patient Advocacy Roundtable to support the patient organizations that are doing amazing work on behalf of our patients with sleep disorders and to allow these organizations to better communicate their concerns and challenges to AASM leadership. We are working together to advocate, collaborate, and raise awareness for earlier detection of sleep disorders and more patient-centered and accessible treatment. We are also identifying opportunities to increase the patient voice in Academy initiatives, such as in the development of clinical practice guidelines and participation of patients on appropriate committees and task forces. Currently, the Roundtable is developing a session proposal for the SLEEP 2022 annual meeting, and the AASM is working with the Sleep Research Society to increase the patient presence and voice at SLEEP.
New Practice Standards
In August, the AASM published two more practice standards for the sleep field: a new clinical practice guideline, “Referral of adults with obstructive sleep apnea for surgical consultation,” and the updated guidance, “Recommended protocols for the Multiple Sleep Latency Test and Maintenance of Wakefulness Test in adults.” These publications represent the fruition of the hard work and dedication invested by our expert task force members and staff over several years.
OSA Awareness Program
In September, the AASM began a new obstructive sleep apnea awareness program funded by a grant from the CDC. The three-year project will help increase awareness of OSA among public health professionals, health care providers and the public. Led by the AASM and its key partner, the Sleep Research Society, the project will involve many other collaborating organizations, including both medical societies and patient-focused organizations.
Sleep Health Caucus
In September, the Congressional Sleep Health Caucus held its first briefing for legislative staff. The virtual briefing focused on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed legislative staff to learn about the importance of sleep health from several sleep experts. You can share the recording of the briefing with your members of Congress and ask your representative to join the Sleep Health Caucus as we continue to bring awareness of important issues in the field of sleep medicine to our policy makers.
Virtual Hill Day
In November, the AASM organized virtual Capitol Hill visits with 11 congressional offices. Participants included members of multiple AASM committees and representatives from several patient organizations that are a part of our Patient Advocacy Roundtable. Discussions focused heavily on the need for permanent health insurance coverage for telemedicine services. Participants also were able to provide insight on the Philips PAP device recall and discuss the AASM position that the U.S. should eliminate seasonal time changes.
Sleep Medicine Fellowship Match
The “Match Day” for sleep medicine fellowship training programs was Dec. 1, and a record number of 179 physicians were matched with a program for the 2022 appointment year. This was the first year in which the sleep medicine match was held in conjunction with other specialty matches — including critical care medicine and pulmonary disease — as part of the Medical Specialties Matching Program. We believe this change will increase awareness of the sleep medicine specialty among prospective fellows, expand the pool of candidates for our programs, and help us fill all the available training slots during and after the match.
This has been a truly challenging year, full of surprises, but the AASM has made great progress in these areas thanks to the important contributions made by our volunteers and the tireless efforts of the AASM staff. I continue to be amazed by the adaptability and dedication of our members, and I am honored to serve as your president.
Raman K. Malhotra, MD, FAASM