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A Preview of 'Tumbleweeds and Frontier Land — Is Rural Sleep Medicine Dying? Threats to Rural Sleep Medicine and Proposed Solutions'

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

In advance of the 2023 SLEEP Conference, Doximity spoke with one of the presenters of "Tumbleweeds and Frontier Land — Is Rural Sleep Medicine Dying? Threats to Rural Sleep Medicine and Proposed Solutions." This is what they wanted you to know before you go.

What are the highlights that attendees should take away from your presentation?

Our panel discussion aims to illuminate and provoke discussion about the challenges of practicing rural sleep medicine. We hope to gauge the interest in this topic from our fellow APSS sleep colleagues and see if we can generate solution-based discussion during our time together. 

Exploring the difficulty of rural sleep practices and hospitals recruiting and retaining sleep technologists. Discuss barriers, including legislative burdens on sleep technologists’ licensure and how rural systems can compete with or survive larger health care systems.

What is the central question that your presentation tries to answer?

Often rural areas lack access to subspecialty medicine, and in a world where rural hospitals struggle to keep sleep labs open due to staffing issues and lowered reimbursement, what does the future of the rural sleep specialist look like? Considering the health impact of untreated and under-treated sleep disorders, this is not a specialty that patients in rural areas or any other part of the country can afford to ignore or lose.

What else would you like attendees to know about your presentation?

As medical providers, we care a lot about our patients but often, even going through medical education and extensive training programs, we may never experience rural medicine. We would like attendees to have a look inside this style of medical practice. Take a gander through the sticks and cornfields and see what rural medicine looks like.

What are 5 questions you would ask attendees about the topic of your presentation to spark an engaging conversation?

Some of our concerns are the lack of access to sleep medicine specialists in rural areas across the nation. How can we improve patient care? Improved broadband access? How can we improve access to sleep services more than mail-order home sleep apnea test?

Looking at the impact of climate change on rural areas that already lack sufficient infrastructure (i.e., increased wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes). How can a small rural practice become involved in advocacy work and implement change in health care policy and possibly insurance coverage for the unseen cost of health care for those of us who live in rural areas (i.e., broadband, CPAP backup batteries, gas mileage)?

Do you or have you practiced sleep medicine in a rural setting, and if so, how were you able to recruit and retain sleep technologists?

Are you also practicing in a rural area, and do you have similar concerns?

Should rural sleep medicine practices be held to the same legislative standards?

Dr. Jerkins has no conflicts of interest to report.

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Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz

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