The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is a reminder that global infectious disease outbreaks are not new and they have the potential to cause catastrophic morbidity and mortality, disrupt health care delivery, demand critical decision making in the absence of scientific certainty, interrupt trainee education, inflict economic damage, and cause a spike in demand for health care services that exceeds societal capacity. In this article, we look back at how the sleep medicine community adapted to challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. To mitigate viral transmission perhaps the single most effective and efficient adaptation was the rapid adoption of telemedicine. Many additional strategies were taken up virtually overnight, including more home sleep apnea testing, reconsideration of potential risks of positive airway pressure therapy, a reduction or cessation of laboratory services, and deployment of workers to provide frontline care to infected patients. During some periods, critical shortages in essential personal protective equipment, respiratory assist devices, and even oxygen added to logistical challenges, which were exacerbated by persistent financial threats and insufficient staffing. Through ongoing innovation, resiliency, and adaptability, breakthroughs were made in assigning staff responsibilities and designing workflows, using clinical spaces, obtaining legislative support, and achieving professional society collaboration and guidance so that the missions of providing health care, teaching, and academic pursuits could continue. Here we summarize what we have learned through these critical months and highlight key adaptations that deserve to be embraced as we move forward.
- sleep medicine