Yesterday, I briefly touched upon the necessity of having patients for your sleep lab. And I am not talking about patients with restless legs or insomnia. Though I find those 2 conditions interesting and challenging to treat, they will not generate a large number of sleep studies. You can't support a million dollar sleep lab billing evaluation and management codes for insomnia!
So where will the sleep apnea patients, the bread and butter of sleep medicine come from?
If you are a pulmonlogist and part of a pulmonary group, you have a head start. If you are a psychiatrist/neurologist/non-pulm internist/FP, read on.
Most likely you will need to be part of a "network/association," and I use these words loosely and am not implying an insurance network. Let me give some examples:
1. You could run a sleep lab for a large multi-specialty group, and get referrals from the physicians in the group. If you choose this route, you will most likely get the professional fee for reading the studies, while the profit from the technical component will go to the group as a whole.
2. You could associate yourself with a hospital, perhaps formally and either be employed by the hospital or you could own the sleep lab with the hosptial as a joint venture. Alternatively you could have a less formal association with the hospital (perhaps do ER call for your primary specialty for the hospital with the understanding that sleep patients from the hospital will be directed to your private sleep lab). If you are associated with a hospital, either formally or informally, you can get referrals from other doctors/groups associated with the hospital.
3. You could sell part of your sleep lab to local physician groups (primarily IM/FP, but also cards, ENT). This strategy can work both in the initial stages of starting a sleep lab or for an established sleep lab.
disclaimer: before putting any of these ideas into practice, consult an attorney. Stark doesn't apply to sleep labs (though it does apply to DME), but anti-Kickback rules do.
ADVERTISING: You probably need to do some advertising to patients, but don't rely on this to generate a large number of sleep studies. And aim your advertising towards osa, not insomnia. More important than advertising to patients is hiring someone to promote your sleep practice to other physicians (this can be done on a part-time basis).