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The 3 Stages of the Sleep Apnea Treatment Decision Journey

Dec 15, 2023 | Sleep Apnea Marketing

As we’ve built brands and worked with doctors over the past few years it’s clear that the sleep apnea patient is very different from a your dental patient, and treating them the same is the #1 reason why dentists fail at marketing sleep treatment. We’ve identified three stages most patients go through on their sleep treatment journey, and have developed proven methods for connecting with them during these stages, and how to use this knowledge to treat more patients.

Before we get into it, here are some eye-opening stats on the prevalence of sleep apnea:

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So, are you wondering why Inspire Sleep is spending over $100 million on advertising? The market is exploding because more and more people are seeking treatment for sleep apnea.

Although the cases of sleep apnea are on the rise, the patient pool is still lacking resourceful education leaving many patients without treatment.

Navigating sleep apnea treatment can be a difficult process if you don’t know who to call to receive treatment. Finding the right doctor and getting in contact with a doctor who has sleep apnea medical experience can be a challenge.

The next step in the treatment process is undergoing tests. Attending lab testing can sound uninviting because the process requires they sleep in a lab, sometimes for multiple nights

Lastly, treatment can result in having to wear a CPAP to help the patient breathe better when they sleep. An uncomfortable, noisy CPAP machine can be a deterrent to doing any research in the eyes of many sufferers.

The 3 Stages of the Sleep Treatment Decision Journey

Our job as sleep experts is to help patients see three things:

  1. Sleep Apnea is dangerous and will shorten your life.
  2. Testing is simple and easy.
  3. There are alternative treatments to CPAP.

The goal is to make the process easier to navigate and increase the willingness of the patient to move forward

Stage 1: Do I have Sleep Apnea?

The educational phase – This is where patients hear from word of mouth or from advertisements about sleep apnea and are interested in finding out more about the condition and options for treatment.

A patient in stage 1 typically isn’t quite ready to commit to treatment yet. Stage 1 patients aren’t looking for a phone call or to fill out a form, they’re curious to learn more to see if they have sleep apnea and what they can do about it. Essentially they are trying to self-diagnose.

The best way to connect with patients in stage 1 is to answer their questions!. This is where you can really establish yourself as an expert in the field and build trust and confidence with potential patients. 

Using creative ways to relay this content can be beneficial to getting the patient’s attention and keeping their interest on the page. Having a strong home page and additional pages on a website will guide the reader through the information and help them find answers to their questions.

There is also the option to leverage social media, educational videos, infographics, and more to present the information in a way that is easily digestible and connects with the reader. Below we have listed some ideas on what kind of videos and infographics you can make:

-Quick and easy educational pieces on the signs, symptoms, and causes of sleep apnea.
-The risks associated with sleep apnea.
-How to get treated.

There is also an opportunity to connect with people of certain specialties, for example, military, CDL drivers, athletes, and active families.

A great way to ensure the patient reaches out to you is by adding a Sleep Apnea Screener to your website. It allows the patient to add their symptoms so they can get more information on whether they need to get tested while allowing you the opportunity to reach out and walk them through the process if it’s right for them.

You can use an Epworth Sleepiness Scale or STOP-BANG or whatever you want, as long as its a form and not a PDF or just text on your site if you actually want patients to fill it out.


Stage 2: I Need to Get Tested for Sleep Apnea

Patients in stage 2 have a good grasp of sleep apnea and are ready to see if they have the condition. 

These patients are likely to look for a medical professional who can help with more information, diagnosis, and treatment. Most patients aren’t aware that you can be tested for sleep apnea (or other sleep conditions) from home! The most common thing we hear from patients at this stage is that they are expecting to go into a lab for a full spectrum test, and many are pleasantly surprised when our doctors notify them that they can take the test from the comfort of their own bed with minimal equipment and sometimes it only takes a single night. 

The best way to connect with patients in stage 2 is to explain the testing process. By using a step-by-step method and infographics, it is an easy way to show and tell the patients what they can expect.

This is when patients have many questions for the practitioner. Here are a few questions to consider:

-How hard is the test?
-Is it accurate?
-How many nights do I have to wear it?

Here, it is important to help patients understand that the test is easy, and convenient, and will help them understand the severity of their condition to be able to recommend appropriate next steps. Without this, it’s impossible to discuss cost or likely treatment. Maybe they just need to lose a few pounds! Your goal is to get them to move forward with testing so you have the data to truly illustrate the significance of their condition.


Stage 3: I Have Sleep Apnea and Need (Better) Treatment

Patients in this stage of the journey know they have sleep apnea and are seeking treatment or better treatment than what they have now. This doesn’t always mean they’ve had medical treatment – maybe they’ve tried an Amazon device or some nose strips, and are still experiencing the problem.

In many cases, these are people who have found themselves intolerant to CPAP therapy and are looking for an alternate solution. CPAP failure rates are fairly high, NIH says over 46% of people do not use the CPAP according to the threshold for failure. The marketing data tells us the same thing – tens of thousands of people search for “CPAP Alternatives” on Google every month.

To connect with these patients it is essential to be present and patient. The diagnosis and treatment process is tiresome, and patients are often overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, and tired. 

Here it is imperative to educate patients on the benefits of oral appliance therapy. Patients will seek more information on oral appliance therapy and want to know how it’s different from the treatment they’re using now. Patients need to know the features and benefits, how much it costs, if it’s covered by insurance, and how fast they can be treated.

It is important to keep the brand message consistent when educating the client and ensuring they are happy with having a device delivered.

At the core of a strong sleep brand is getting to know each patient on a one-to-one basis. Understand their needs and support their treatment in a quick and easy way.

To learn more about building sleep brands, watch our video course on How to Build a Sleep Brand, or check out our Sleep Brand Builder, which includes all the tools and guidance you need to get started building your sleep brand.