CPAP Classes Help Patients and Providers Learn From Each Other
As we’ve mentioned in previous articles about CPAP support networks, not everyone has access to ongoing help and guidance from a specialist, but there are always other options. Aside from social networks, friends and family, or healthcare providers, there are also CPAP classes available for anyone interested in learning the basics of CPAP use, sizing, cleaning, and maintenance. Classes are available in almost any location in the U.S., and are specialized for beginning patients (CPAP users), emergency medical service workers (EMS), or other healthcare service employees. These classes have been successful in providing patients and providers, especially those new to therapy, with a much easier way to learn the basics of how PAP systems work and what you can do to troubleshoot problems early on, before any serious issues develop. Classes can be held in person or held online as webinars (live video conferences) or pre-recorded videos (webcasts) with follow-up commenting options. And the information presented can vary between the more general introductory courses to specific models or features. Because of current social distancing concerns related to COVID-19, medical providers and CPAP manufacturers are improving online resources for both patients and medical staff, hoping to raise treatment adherence rates by making therapy information freely available and easily accessible. CPAP classes are an effective way to accomplish this goal in a short period of time, providing the necessary support for optimal treatment conditions and long-term adherence.
The Benefits of CPAP Classes
In an interview with Amber Hamer, program manager for ResMed’s Therapy Solutions Marketing division, HME News asked about CPAP classes and how their rising popularity can help boost adherence rates for new patients. According to Hamer, CPAP classes can not only improve adherence rates, but also reduce costs and lead to more efficient therapy setups for those involved. There are times when new patients may not be using the best setup for their needs, but they continue therapy without optimal conditions. This can lead to leakage, discomfort, and other problems later on. Starting with a CPAP class gives patients and providers the instructions for optimizing therapy conditions. For example, a class instructor may stress the importance of mask fitting, pressure settings, or using the best type of machine for an individual’s specific condition. These decisions can make a big difference for new patients, and the classes are an ideal way to guide the setup process in a controlled environment.
CPAP classes also allow instructors to provide guidance to more than one person at a time. The webinars, for example, work like a normal in-person class but are recorded online using a video-conference application. This means that viewers can ask questions in real time, depending on the class rules and protocols. Using this format, several patients can be set up on therapy within a 60- or 90-minute session, all following the instructions at the same time. According to Hamer, some of ResMed’s CPAP instructional webinars have attracted over 300 people. In other conditions, each of those people would need to be helped or trained separately, taking much more time and resources.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine observed the overall impact of group education on CPAP adherence, finding that educational programs could be an appropriate alternative to individual counseling, and could both improve adherence to therapy and decrease the time between diagnosis and initiating treatment. While COVID-19 has made it much more difficult to schedule in-person classes, online conferences can be just as rewarding, and attended within the safety of a patient’s own residence.
Types of CPAP Classes
CPAP classes can be traditional in-person arrangements, often held at sleep centers where sleep apnea tests are conducted, or they can be held online using any of the available video conferencing formats. An article published back in 2011 describes classes held at Stanford University’s Sleep Medicine Center in Redwood City, California, where a variety of programs provide guidance on PAP therapy along with other treatments like surgery and weight loss. The Sleep Medicine Center, established in 1972, is one of the leading research institutions on sleep medicine in America, focusing on sleep apnea among many other disorders associated with sleep and sleep-disordered breathing. One of the classes described consists of about ten participants who bring their various machines for specific instructions on each device. Described by one participant as “CPAP Boot Camp,” the class covers everything from titration and initial setup to using a humidifier, cleaning the machine, and proper sleep hygiene. Other classes include additional information on things like diet, exercise, positional therapy, and adhering to schedules for optimal results. The variety of options at the Stanford classes show how comprehensive therapy support programs can be, giving participants many options beyond introductory PAP-therapy instructions, and in areas that are equally critical to the health and survival of patients.
It is important to note that in-person classes for new patients will include a sign-in sheet to ensure that the class is HIPAA compliant and to protect the health information of those attending. Any health information spoken of during the course will be used only by the clinician to help in the operation of the device and mask, and to facilitate treatment, and everyone involved is held to the same standard. Thus far, this has not been an issue, as the classes are held in comfortable, secure, and supportive professional environments where all attendees feel safe and open about their needs.
Where to Find CPAP Classes and Training Videos
Most CPAP classes are held at sleep centers or other medical health centers. If you are looking for a class in your area, you may want to ask your medical provider to refer you to one at a local medical institution. In addition, there may be online versions of the same classes available remotely from anywhere in the states. And if you work at a medical center and are interested in starting a CPAP class, there are resources available for that as well. Some examples include the ResMed Group CPAP Class Instructional Video, which is a how-to guide for creating a CPAP class, and EMS-Online training courses for emergency medical response employees. Many previously recorded class webinars can be accessed on YouTube, including instructional videos for both CPAP users and providers. YouTube is a good place to find product-specific tutorials as well, for example, the Philips Respironics Dreamstation guide or the BiPAP setup video created by Core Emergency Medicine. Resmed also provides product-specific video training on their website, including learning modules for HME providers, complete with class sign-in sheet templates and patient checklists for organizing new classes. Other instructional videos are available on company directories such as the ResMed Online Store.
For those who are just purchasing a device for the first time, there are a number of “Beginner’s Guides” published online. For example, the National Sleep Foundation’s CPAP 101 article provides answers to questions about insurance coverage, mask selection, troubleshooting, and cleaning and maintenance. SistemmaCPAP.com has published similar articles on purchasing tips, troubleshooting, and methods of intervention and support.
While instructional videos are by far the most easily accessible support forums, they may be better utilized as a starting point for further inquiry. In most cases, there will be much more hands-on guidance offered through a complete CPAP class, either in person or via a web conferencing format, and these classes are especially recommended for new patients who are just beginning to learn about CPAP and what options are available.
Other CPAP Support Resources
In addition to CPAP classes, a number of resources are available online or through local health provider networks in most area in the U.S. Below is a list of resources from our previous article on sleep apnea support networks:
Apneaboard.com – https://www.apneaboard.com/
This is one of the most popular sleep apnea resources online; a hub of activity where you can find out nearly anything related to sleep apnea, CPAP, and related health concerns.
AWAKE support groups are local in many areas, so check their listings for your city. While the AWAKE domain is primarily a directory of other resources and user groups, it also includes educational content about sleep apnea, diagnosis and treatment, as well as links to other American Sleep Apnea Association resources, such as their CPAP assistance program.
CPAP Tips From the FDA – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B10ABypyGOo&ab_channel=U.S.FoodandDrugAdministration
This is the Food and Drug Administration’s tips on best practices for PAP-therapy beginners and regular users. Just over five minutes, the video covers a few basic strategies for using devices safely and effectively.
MyApnea.org – https://myapnea.org/
MyApnea is a community of patients, doctors, and researchers seeking to improve the experience of sleep apnea and its treatments. Resources include a forum, research news, and a collection of personal stories about sleep apnea and CPAP experiences.
ASAA CPAP Assistance Program – https://www.sleepapnea.org/community/cpap-assistance-program
The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) is a patient-led nonprofit that advocates for people with sleep apnea, and its CPAP Assistance Program (CAP) can help raise the funds to purchase your CPAP equipment if you are a patient in need. For resources in your area, click on the “Community” link on their website’s homepage.
CPAPtalk.com Wiki – http://www.cpaptalk.com/wiki/index.php/CpapWiki:About
The CPAPtalk.com Wiki is a resource list and knowledge-base for sleep apnea and CPAP information. Its primary focus is on CPAP therapy and CPAP device subjects.
CPAP Retailers/Distributors –
Device retailers and/or distributors can help a great deal when it comes to questions about a device. SistemmaCPAP.com has telephone, email, and chat access for any questions or concerns about products and their use.
For more specific issues, CPAP retailers and manufacturers often provide accurate search engines on their websites for browsing their list of resources. Philips Respironics, for example, includes a comprehensive Healthcare Resources Library on their company website, giving users a range of categories to choose from. Similarly, the ResMed homepage includes a search engine with the title “I want to learn about,” and directs users to information based on their searches.
EMS Online – https://www.emsonline.net/
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3659372/
National Sleep Foundation – https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
Philips Respironics – https://www.usa.philips.com/healthcare/medical-specialties/sleep-apnea-care
Philips Respironics Healthcare Resource Library – https://www.usa.philips.com/healthcare/medical-specialties/sleep-apnea-care
ResMed – https://www.resmed.com/en-us/
ResMed Group CPAP Class Instructional Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkXIkpdarSc
U.S. Food and Drug Administration – https://www.fda.gov/