In-house durable medical equipment (DME) providerswork in tandem and on site with sleep specialists at sleep centers. (Sound Sleep Health is a sleep center that provides built-in DME provision and support for all CPAP patients.)
Independent DME companies do the same work, but off site.
Online DME generally provide equipment and supplies for less, but they work best for people who have already mastered CPAP and need less support.
In any case, DME providers exist to do more than set patients up with their equipment.
Here are some key qualities we think represent the best of the best in DME companies. (What is DME?)
The best qualities of a durable medical equipment (DME) company
Access to quality technology
The best DME provider is well-stocked in the latest, best CPAP technology available. They also provide a wide assortment of accessories, spare parts, comfort products, and cleaning supplies.
You should be able to get hooked up with your continuous positive airway pressure system (or system designed for BiPAP, Auto-CPAP, or ASV) immediately after diagnosis, and a good DME provider should also be prepared to order specialty items that ship to you overnight.
The best DME will not make you wait to start your CPAP therapy.
Strong medical credentials
The best DME provider hires only those allied healthcare professionals with proper training and board certification to manage their patients. Legitimate credentials for these sleep specialists include one or more of the following:
Respiratory therapists (CRT, RRT)
Polysomnographic technologists (RPSGT, RST)
Clinical sleep health educators (CCSH)
These critical members of the sleep medicine team are required to pass rigorous board exams to earn their credentials, which they must maintain through continued education (just as it is for nurses and doctors).
The best DME has a knowledge base built on direct experience working with patients, in and out of the sleep lab. These experts have seen it all when it comes to PAP therapy challenges. They are consummate problem solvers who are:
savvy about new technology
good at instructing patients on how to use their equipment
skilled in machine calibration
More than anybody else, they know many tips and tricks for customizing your treatment for maximum comfort and effectiveness.
The best DME providers can answer the question, "What is sleep apnea?", in terms that patients understand.
They can explain precisely how CPAP works, and why it’s so critical to use to treat sleep breathing disorders.
They can provide diagrams, videos, and links to online media to help foster understanding with their patients.
Many DME professionals either use PAP therapy or have loved ones who use it.
They have a passion for making it work and exist to share everything they know about the world of PAP therapy.
The best DMEs are also available any time of day or night, and at any moment during your journey as a new user, to help you get to the next level and achieve the best outcome, whether it's on Night One or Night 365.
The best DME companies know that your success depends a great deal on how well you do in the early stages of your therapy. More than half of all new CPAP users discontinue treatment in just a few weeks… usually because they feel unsupported. After all, if you find it challenging at first, and feel as if you're stuck doing it alone, you might give up.
A good DME provider is there to help you overcome any hiccups in the process.
They are poised to help you with all the most common obstacles to successful therapy:
Poor mask fit or seal
Problems operating the CPAP machine
Air pressure intolerance
Slow response to therapy (or lack of instant results)
These are common, easily remedied problems. You can call your DME to get help, but the best DME providers won’t wait for your call: they will contact you at intervals along your journey to inquire about your progress, instead. They’ll ask about mask comfort, air pressure, and CPAP equipment concerns.
Today’s CPAP systems also provide wireless remote monitoring so that DMEs can track reduced usage, high leak values, and other red flags to identify when you’re struggling with your therapy. A good DME won't hesitate to call and offer their support and service if this should happen.
Ultimately, the best DME knows that without their support, you are more likely to struggle with CPAP.
It's been shown that sleep apnea patients who use CPAP for 6 months straight are shown to be most likely to succeed with therapy in the long term.
A good DME knows that it’s those patients who feel supported by their DME early into their journey that will make it to that critical 6-month milestone.
As healthcare workers, the best DME providers are invested in your success. They may be the most valuable therapy partner you could have. To them, none of your concerns will ever be too trivial. A good DME is not just a supplier, but an educator, a cheerleader, a coach, a therapist, and a technologist.