Why Sleep Center Accreditation is Important

Long time no see, everyone!  This past week has been very full, limiting my abilities to write until now.  One important event of this week was an American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) re-accreditation site visit for a sleep center that I medically direct.  I am pleased to report that the facility remains a fully AASM-accredited sleep center.

To most, medical facility accreditation may not mean much, or anything at all.  AASM accreditation does mean a lot, however, to clinicians and staff for whom it is important to maintain a distinction for utilizing accepted medical and procedural standards of care regarding the diagnosis and management of patients with sleep disorders.  The AASM is the primary governing body that develops and maintains national standards of care in sleep medicine, establishing benchmarks for quality of work done by physicians and in sleep centers based on sound, published scientific data.  As such, AASM accreditation should be important for patients as well:  though there are certainly plenty of excellent sleep centers that are not accredited, it is reasonable to presume that one’s care in an AASM-accredited sleep center is generally more likely to be in keeping with established and accepted national standards of care as compared to in an unaccredited facility, particularly one that’s been around for many years without any intention to obtain accreditation.

AASM accreditation requires adherence to specific standards and guidelines for clinical work and management, diagnostic testing, and operational procedures.  It is a rigorous process, one that involves a detailed application, demonstration of maintenance of education and certification, ongoing adherence to AASM practice parameters, and site visits and inspections.  Plus, rules and standards change all the time in medicine, so accreditation forces us to keep up, stay current, and continue to do our best caring for patients in this ever-changing modern world.  Finally, and importantly, accreditation also means that a sleep center’s physicians are able to deal with all sleep-related problems, not just the easy stuff.

Many years ago I participated in the accreditation process as an AASM site inspector.  It was a great experience; it gave me opportunities to travel and to see how other centers did things.  One of the medical directors I met during my visit told me that he looked forward to our inspection because he considered it a learning opportunity.  That remark has stuck with me ever since:  the idea that a visit from the AASM should be something not to be dreaded, like an audit or an investigation, but instead something very positive, something that allows for further growth and mastery in the field of sleep medicine.  In my career I have seen sleep centers through their own accreditation as medical director many times, and in many ways the process is fun.  I find it interesting to hear the perspective of the site inspector, pick his or her brain a little, understand how physicians around the country are handling certain complex situations, and learn how others are dealing with all the changes constantly thrust upon us in American health care.

To those who ask me how to choose where to go for their sleep medicine care, I do recommend considering exploring which area sleep centers are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as they make their choices.  Some insurance plans and other administrative bodies require patients to get their care at accredited facilities.  I recognize that some underserved parts of the country may not have accredited centers yet, and it also always takes time for a new sleep center to obtain its accreditation, but the pathway to accreditation is quite accessible now for those sleep specialists willing to step up.

And no, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine didn’t pay me to write any of this!  Have a great evening, everyone.  Cheers!