By all accounts, 2020 was a tough year. The field of sleep medicine experienced numerous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lost beloved colleagues such as AASM Founding President William C. Dement, MD; AASM Past President Mark Mahowald, MD; and renowned RLS scientist Richard P. Allen, PhD. However, there were positive developments in 2020, including the widespread adoption of telemedicine, FDA approval of new treatments for sleep disorders, and the success of Virtual SLEEP 2020 — the first livestreamed (and now on-demand) meeting in the history of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

Here is an informal list of the top 10 trends that had a significant impact on the field of sleep medicine in 2020. You can explore each topic for an in-depth look at key headlines from the past year.

While telemedicine has been used in the sleep field for years, the COVID-19 pandemic was the event that forced payers to recognize its value, sparking its widespread adoption in a new era of social distancing.  The AASM, the American Medical Association, and other organizations developed resources to help clinicians adjust to this method of health care delivery:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was busy during 2020. In addition to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA issued numerous authorizations (and one cautionary warning) related to the field of sleep medicine. Multiple treatments for sleep disorders received FDA approval, authorization, or clearance, giving clinicians and patients new options to improve nighttime sleep and daytime alertness:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services made interim changes to increase flexibility in the provision of health care during the public health emergency. As the year came to an end, and the 2021 implementation of evaluation and management (E/M) coding changes approached, CMS published the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule, which includes decreased payments for most procedures due to budget neutrality requirements:

By Thomas Heffron, AASM senior director of marketing & communications
Questions or comments? Contact me at theffron@aasm.org.