Two companies have launched a program they said will make it easier and more affordable for commercial truck drivers to be tested and treated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA is a potentially serious medical condition that, if left untreated, could impair a driver’s performance and cause life-threatening complications such as stroke.
Under the program, Resonea Inc, a medtech company that developed a smartphone app that the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2019 to screen and test for OSA, will work with CPAPSupplies.com, an online vendor of the most widely used treatment option to provide drivers with screening services and equipment. It offers a machine that delivers continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) to aid in proper breathing,
Arden, North Carolina-based CPAPSupplies will offer Resonea’s screening software, known as Drowzle, for free to company drivers if their employer pays for it. The software will be made available to owner-operators for a nominal fee.
After answering lifestyle and medical history questions, a driver places the phone at the head of a bed or sleeper berth and sets the app to record sleep activity. Upon waking, the driver stops the recording process. Within 20 minutes, the driver receives an OSA assessment via email.
For drivers identified as moderate to high risk, the next step would be to purchase, for a $199 fee, software known as Drowzle Pro. The results from the initial screening are run through a different set of algorithms in Drowzle Pro to arrive at a more conclusive diagnosis. Fleets can determine if they want to pay for Drowzle pro or not.
Those results are then analyzed by a sleep medicine professional who through a telemedicine visit will make recommendations for treatment. The recommendations might include the purchase of a CPAP machine and related supplies, as well as necessary follow-ups for Department of Transportation medical exams.
The telemed visit is included in the cost of the home study kit. Most OSA tests and reviews run 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 a clinical diagnosis of any condition likely to interfere with their ability to drive safely cannot be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
Once successfully treated, a driver may regain “medically-qualified-to-drive” status, FMCSA said. Most OSA cases can be successfully treated.
Depending on the findings from the Drowzle Pro test, the driver will either be cleared for duty or given a medical prescription for OSA therapy. If a driver diagnosed with OSA is prescribed CPAP therapy, the device’s recording data will demonstrate compliance with DOT requirements, the companies said.
OSA is a persistent problem among drivers because many cases, for various reasons, go undiagnosed. A 2020 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, using specific testing criteria, found that nearly half of truck drivers tested were at risk for OSA.
One problem is that many drivers don’t want to jeopardize their on-duty status by being assessed and discovering they have the condition. Two other issues are cost and testing inconvenience. The Resonea software is designed to alleviate both concerns, said Dr. Karen Underwood, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company’s chief medical officer and one of its co-founders.
The partnership with CPAPSupplies “allows more people to screen themselves in the privacy of their own home and take the next steps to testing and treatment,” Underwood said in a statement earlier this month.
Underwood said the partnership has developed a separate and extensive process for what is known as “chain of custody,” which confirms the person whose name is on the test results was the same who took the test.
The screening software is available to anyone. However, the companies chose to target commercial drivers because they have been 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 don’t. Treated drivers are believed to be as safe as those who aren’t afflicted.
“All drivers deserve to be healthy,” Underwood said.