Two companies have launched a program they said will make it easier and more affordable for professional drivers to get tested and treated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA is a potentially serious condition that, if left untreated, can affect a driver’s performance and cause life-threatening complications such as a stroke.
The program will partner Resonea Inc, a medtech company that developed a smartphone app that the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2019 for screening and testing for OSA, with CPAPSupplies.com, an online provider of the most widely used Treatment option, drivers cooperate with control services and equipment. It offers a device that delivers continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to aid in proper breathing.
Based in Arden, North Carolina, CPAPSupplies will offer Resonea’s screening software, known as Drowzle, to the company’s drivers for free if their employer pays for it. The software is made available to owners and operators for a small fee.
After answering lifestyle and medical history questions, a driver places the phone at the head of a bed or bunk and sets the app to record sleep activity. Upon waking up, the driver stops the recording process. Within 20 minutes, the driver will receive an OSA rating via email.
For medium to high risk drivers, the next step would be to purchase a software called Drowzle Pro for a fee of $199. The results of the initial screening are run through a different set of algorithms in Drowzle Pro to arrive at a more meaningful diagnosis. Fleets can choose whether or not to pay for Drowzle Pro.
These results are then analyzed by a sleep medicine specialist who makes treatment recommendations through a telemedicine visit. Recommendations may include purchasing a CPAP machine and related supplies, and necessary follow-up visits for Department of Transportation medical exams.
The Telemed visit is included in the cost of the home study kit. Most OSA tests and reviews cost between $300 and $500 each.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a DOT sub-agency that oversees commercial driver safety, allows drivers to operate in interstate commerce if they have OSA. However, persons with a medical history or clinical diagnosis of a condition that could affect their ability to drive safely cannot be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
After successful treatment, a driver can regain “medically qualified to drive” status, the FMCSA said. Most OSA cases can be treated successfully.
Depending on the result of the Drowzle Pro test, the driver receives either the duty release or a doctor’s prescription for OSA therapy. When a driver diagnosed with OSA is prescribed CPAP therapy, the device’s recording data shows compliance with DOT requirements, the companies said.
OSA is an ongoing problem among motorists as many cases go undiagnosed for a variety of reasons. A 2020 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, using specific testing criteria, found that nearly half of the truck drivers tested were at risk of OSA.
One problem is that many drivers don’t want to jeopardize their duty status by being examined and finding they have the condition. Two other problems are cost and inconvenience of testing. The Resonea software aims to address both concerns, said Dr. Karen Underwood, Chief Medical Officer of the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company and one of its co-founders.
The partnership with CPAPSupplies “allows more people to be screened and take the next steps to testing and treatment in the privacy of their own homes,” Underwood said in a statement earlier this month.
Underwood said the partnership developed a separate and comprehensive “chain of custody” procedure that certifies that the person whose name appears on the test results was the same person who took the test.
The screening software is available to everyone. However, the companies chose to target commercial drivers as they were found to be at disproportionately high risk of OSA.
In addition, studies have shown that drivers who suffer from the disorder are five times more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers who do not. It is believed that treated drivers are just as safe as those who are not affected.
“All drivers deserve to be healthy,” Underwood said.