Magazine article Drug Topics

Walgreens Takes Initiative with Sleep Apnea Program

Magazine article Drug Topics

Walgreens Takes Initiative with Sleep Apnea Program

Article excerpt


Imagine this: On the referral of a physician, a patient is tested at a sleep lab center and diagnosed with sleep apnea. As part of the treatment, the patient's physician prescribes a portable continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which he picks up from a respiratory provider. A respiratory therapist visits the patient at home and helps to set up and explain how to use the machine. Later, a reimbursement specialist assists the patient in getting reimbursed for the machine and supplies.

Walgreen Co. is helping to make this scenario a reality through a sleep apnea program it recently launched through its home care division, Walgreens Health Initiatives. Backed by approximately 80 respiratory therapists, the program is currently available in 26 markets in six states-Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

As explained to Drug Topics by Timothy Buckley, RRT, director, respiratory services, Walgreens Health Initiatives, "the machines have to be set for the amount of pressure they are delivering. Most of those settings are internal, because you don't want someone to be adjusting that. Respiratory therapists adjust the pressure to the prescription before they go to the house."

In addition to setting the amount of pressure the machines deliver, therapists develop a care plan based on the patient's problems and needs. "The therapist sets up visits and determines how much hand-holding the patient needs. The goal is to get the patient to be compliant with the prescription and to maintain the machines by themselves. This can take one to several visits from the therapist," said Buckley.

CPAP machines range in price from $800 to $1,000. Supplies, including tubing that connects to the machine, a mask that goes over the patient's nose, and head gear, cost between $150 and $200. Supplies must usually be replaced every six months to a year. According to Buckley, CPAP machines are 20% smaller as well as 40 times quieter than when they were first introduced in the 1980s.

The machine is about the size of two video cassettes and is electrically powered. Like a blower, it runs air through a tubing system hooked up to the patient's nose prior to sleep. …

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