EHR alert tool effectively screens for sleep apnea in epilepsy patients

An electronic health record (EHR) alert was able to effectively screen for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in epilepsy patients and refer them for sleep studies to better diagnose their disorders.

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, developed, implemented and evaluated the EHR alert tool in an effort to prove its effectiveness in screening for OSA in patients with epilepsy, according to a study published in Neurology Clinical Practice.

According to the study, previous research has shown that people with epilepsy have a higher prevalence of OSA, which contributes to poor seizure control, and the detection and treatment of OSA can improve seizure control in some patients with epilepsy.

Researchers developed an assessment for identifying OSA and embedded that into an EHR. If a patient had two risk factors, they were then referred for a sleep study.

Prior to the EHR alert being implemented, only 7.23 percent of patients with epilepsy were referred for a sleep study, according to the study. Of those referred, 56 percent were diagnosed with sleep apnea. After the alert was implemented, about 33.1 percent were referred for sleep studies. Of the people who completed a sleep study, 87 percent had at least mild sleep apnea.

“It was found that placing this mandatory alert for providers to screen for OSA in the EHR markedly increased the detection of at-risk epilepsy patients who should be referred for a sleep study,” Rutgers professor and study co-author Xue Ming said in a statement. “Such screening can lead to early detection and treatment, which will improve the quality of life of patients with epilepsy and OSA.”