Innovator puts sleep scoring problems to bed


It wasn’t long after Dr. Magdy Younes established the sleep laboratory at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, Canada, that he was struck by how long it took a qualified technologist to score a sleep study. Even more troubling than the average scoring time of two hours was what he discovered about the reliability of the process.

As the only sleep physician on staff, it was left to Dr. Younes to review all the sleep records the lab generated. When he routinely discovered scoring errors, he was determined to understand why they were happening. He knew that it couldn’t be the training or skill of the technologists as he had handpicked a highly qualified staff.

“I determined that the task of scoring sleep studies is an extremely boring and tedious one that, even in the best hands, can result in distraction and errors,” states Younes, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba and a Senior Scholar in its Department of Medicine. His further examination revealed that some of the scoring guidelines require precise measurements that can’t be performed in practice because of time and cost pressures.

Familiar with using computers to develop models to address fundamental research questions, the doctor immediately thought of using technology to resolve the sleep scoring problems. Younes notes, “Computers do not suffer boredom and can execute precise measurements very quickly.”

Throughout his medical and research career, Younes has been driven to address unsolved medical problems, but it wasn’t until he retired in 2001 that he could dedicate his full attention to medical innovation. He established a research and development company that initially focused on a series of inventions related to mechanical ventilation. In 2007, Younes made development of automatic sleep study scoring a priority.

Younes knew that for the technology to be effective and accepted by the sleep medicine community, it needed to address the realities of real-world sleep lab conditions. He immediately turned to Michele Ostrowski, his chief sleep technologist during his tenure at Health Sciences Centre, for advice and assistance on the project. During the time they worked together, the two had often discussed issues related to sleep study scoring.

“When I saw what I perceived to be scoring errors,” Younes recalls, “Michele would sometimes agree with me but at other times would not. We’d have heated debates and almost invariably she won after citing relevant references and doing precise measurements.” For Younes, there was no question that Ostrowski’s enthusiasm and obsession with quality would make her the perfect “gold standard” for the software’s algorithms and an invaluable consultant for the user interface.

The launch of the Michele Sleep Scoring software in May 2012 was the culmination of several years of research, development and rigorous testing. Younes is certain the end product has been worth the time and effort.

Clinic efficiency and productivity were clearly important goals in developing Michele Sleep Scoring, but Younes is quick to point out an immediately tangible benefit to the patient as well. He explains that the time required to perform manual scoring often means the patient has to visit the clinic a second time to get a result and diagnosis.

“Using Michele Sleep Scoring,” says Younes, “a file can be scored in the morning directly after the patient undergoes the study. This allows the physician to review the results with the patient before she/he goes home to face another night of poor quality sleep.

 

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