Objective: The level of clinical suspicion of sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (SAHS) among primary care physicians is low. The aim of this study was to analyze the impact of a primary care training program on the quality and quantity of referrals made due to suspected SAHS.
Material and methods: A group of 16 primary care physicians were offered the option of participating in a training program consisting of 2 talks-workshops, the provision of up-to-date information on SAHS and a form for making referrals according to an established protocol, and the opportunity to contact the sleep department at our hospital directly. Twenty-one primary care physicians who did not receive training served as the control group. We gathered data on the quantity and quality of referrals made by both groups for the period January through June 2005 and 2006, and recorded the number of both SAHS diagnoses made and patients prescribed treatment with continuous positive airway pressure. Data were analyzed in function of the primary care population assigned to each group.
Results: The training program was completed by 81.3% of the physicians. The number of referrals made by the training group increased 2.38-fold after the program (intergroup comparison, P=.0001). There was also a 2.36-fold increase in the percentage of cases of SAHS detected in the population (P=.0008), a 1.85-fold increase in the percentage of serious cases detected (P=.001), and a 2-fold increase in the number of patients prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (P=.009). Agreement between the data gathered by the physicians and the sleep specialist was significantly higher in the training group for all the items studied.
Conclusions: The implementation of a training program on SAHS aimed at primary care physicians improved both the quantity and quality of referrals made due to suspected SAHS.