Introduction: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a prevalent disease associated with significant morbidity and high healthcare costs. Information and communication technology could offer cost-effective management options.
Objectives: To evaluate an out-of-hospital Virtual Sleep Unit (VSU) based on telemedicine to manage all patients with suspected OSA, including those with and without continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.
Methods: This was an open randomized controlled trial. Patients with suspected OSA were randomized to hospital routine (HR) or VSU groups to compare the clinical improvement and cost-effectiveness in a non-inferiority analysis. Improvement was assessed by changes in the Quebec Sleep Questionnaire (QSQ), EuroQol (EQ-5D and EQ-VAS), and Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS). The follow-up was 3 months. Cost-effectiveness was assessed by a Bayesian analysis based on quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).
Results: The HR group (n: 92; 78% OSA, 57% CPAP) compared with the VSU group (n: 94; 83% OSA, 43% CPAP) showed: CPAP compliance was similar in both groups, the QSQ social interactions domain improved significantly more in the HR group whereas the EQ-VAS improved more in the VSU group. Total and OSA-related costs were lower in the VSU group than the HR. The Bayesian cost-effectiveness analysis showed that VSU was cost-effective for a wide range of willingness to pay for QALYs.
Conclusions: The VSU offered a cost-effective means of improving QALYs than HR. However, the assessment of its clinical improvement was influenced by the choice of the questionnaire; hence, additional measurements of clinical improvement are needed. Our findings indicate that VSU could help with the management of many patients, irrespective of CPAP use.