Following a rigorous evaluation process, Walter Reed Bethesda’s Sleep Lab recently demonstrated its dedication to quality patient care, achieving accreditation by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
The AASM has accredited sleep facilities since 1977, and though accreditation of sleep disorder centers is voluntary, it demonstrates a “commitment to the provision of quality diagnostic services,” according to the organization’s website. AASM’s requirements are the “gold standard” by which the medical community and public uphold sleep medicine services, the website states.
“It’s reassurance that we are doing the right things for our patients and at a very high standard,” said Maj. Aaron Holley, Pulmonary/ Sleep and Critical Care Medicine assistant program director at Walter Reed Bethesda. “It gives us that validation, and I think it’s great to be able to tell our patients that.”
In a recent e-mail to staff, Walter Reed Bethesda Commander, Rear Adm. Alton Stocks, praised the Sleep Lab for their achievement.
“Your dedication and hard work to keep us the Nation’s Medical Center is critical and much appreciated,” Stocks stated.
The five-year accreditation, a first at the newly integrated Walter Reed Bethesda, allows the lab’s staff to continue taking pride in their work, said Holley. It’s also significant, given the Sleep Lab is now larger and has more staff since the integration between the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) and former National Naval Medical Center, he added.
To earn accreditation, the AASM evaluates the Sleep Lab’s equipment, treatment and outcomes, the knowledge of the staff, and how they manage cases, from initial appointments to studies, explained Holley, who is also the Sleep Fellowship Research Director. Although the process was somewhat intimidating, Holley said he was confident in the lab and its staff, stating, “There’s a lot of institutional knowledge between the doctors and technicians.”
The 12-bed lab, with more than 20 staff members, including active duty, civilians and contractors, has an accredited fellowship training program and out-of-center program, with a lab that sees about 80 patients each week, Holley said. In addition to sleep studies, the lab validates whether service members are deployable, and conducts various specialized tests to help treat complicated breathing disorders related to congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“We do a comprehensive evaluation for any sleep problem somebody might have. That can run the gamut from insomnia to fatigue, to hyperinsomnia, where people are abnormally tired all day,” he said.
Among the general population, sleep problems are prevalent, he continued. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of Americans have a sleep complaint. In the military, sleep problems seem to be related to deployments, given the change in environment and irregular schedules, he said, though studies are underway to look at the correlations. Researchers are also studying the relationship between sleep disorders and injuries like post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, he added.
Regardless of a patient’s needs, Holley said, “We are here for them, should they need [help].” He noted the dedicated staff working around the clock, all hours of the night, “cranking out studies,” to meet the needs of patients.
Tim Andrada, the Sleep Lab’s clinic coordinator, said he takes pride in working for the center one of only a few Department of Defense Sleep Labs in the country accredited by the AASM. Having worked in the Sleep Lab at WRAMC since its establishment, about 26 years ago, Andrada said the accreditation is special because not all Sleep Labs can say they have it, and it’s difficult to obtain.
“They look at our studies [and] they look at our protocol. It’s very hard,” he said. “The accreditation means we’ve obtained the highest standard quality medical care.”
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