The American Association of Sleep Technologists selects a new management firm, which will allow it to incorporate new technology, improve its educational reach, and raise its profile on the global sleep scene.
The AAST board of directors made a unanimous choice of SmithBucklin as the association’s new management firm. This decision was the result of a detailed process that included taking a hard look at who we are as a membership association and what we need to provide support to our current and future members. Over the next few months, there will be a transition of the AAST’s headquarters and staff management from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) to SmithBucklin.
Since 2003, AAST has operated under a management contract with AASM. In that time, we experienced many positive changes, including a significantly improved operational and financial foundation. The board recognizes that our association must be responsive to continue to grow and meet the increasingly complex needs of our membership. In the past few years, communication and education technology has changed dramatically. With the support of AASM management, the AAST outsourced some of these tasks to third parties and consultants. This led to problems with coordination of roles and increased costs to the society.
As a result of the rapid changes occurring in the healthcare arena and in sleep medicine, the AAST board determined that development of a new strategic plan was essential to address and meet the challenges to our practice and our profession. An extensive strategic planning session was undertaken, followed by development of a tactical plan to address the identified needs. The tactical planning process identified essential organizational needs that were lacking, and provided a road map for the team to follow. Using that road map, the board’s executive committee undertook a 5-month vetting process to review management options, including our existing AASM management team, and identify the best fit for the needs of our expanding and changing organization and members.
AAST members have high expectations of our value and relevance; bringing the best service to members is a key goal for the society. The need for advanced technology was foremost in our assessment of management options for the AAST. This includes association management software, the ability to manage routine membership management functions efficiently and effectively, a robust learning management platform that is easy to use, and the ability to expand technology as needed. We are an organization that relies on volunteers. Support of our volunteer leaders—hardworking committee members and task force volunteers—is of primary importance. We believe that SmithBucklin has the expertise and organizational resources to support our current volunteers, as well as develop future leaders.
AAST leadership is excited about the prospect of a long-term partnership with SmithBucklin and the support of a team that has 65 years of experience in serving independent nonprofit associations, including approximately 30 other healthcare-related societies and associations. We also anticipate that SmithBucklin’s depth and breadth of resources, proven practices, and respected thought leadership will assist the AAST to move rapidly and smoothly into the technology arena and become a more process-driven volunteer-supported organization.
What Change Means for Members
So, what does this mean for our members? The AAST remains an independent association, with no changes to our bylaws or operating principles. Our mission continues to be to promote sleep wellness and lead the sleep technology profession through education, resources, and advocacy. We anticipate this change will serve to support the AAST vision, which remains to “play a key role in setting the standard for professional excellence in the evolving practice of sleep healthcare.” With the efficiencies afforded by a new company that specializes in association management, we anticipate expanded technology and member benefits at no increased cost to our members. Members will continue to experience business as usual both during and after the transition. We will continue to have staff in place to answer the phones and questions, and assist with association needs. Our programs and services will continue to expand, and our commitment to our members and our profession will remain strong.
The AAST focus on education will expand with this transition. We will work together with stakeholders in the field of sleep technology to develop curricula, identify knowledge and skill gaps, and provide training and instruction to meet the needs of our members. As our technology improves, you will see easier access to our online education programs and continuing education credit (CEC) opportunities using an updated educational platform. The new platform will allow users to personalize their learning process, track progress, and engage in more interactive education including clinical simulations. We will continue to improve our website and expand our capabilities for interactive communication with our members, keeping you up to date with news in the field of sleep technology and providing opportunities for feedback to the leadership.
The AASM provides the standards of practice for our profession and supports our physician leaders. The AAST has always, and will continue to, provide resources to aid technologists in understanding and implementing these standards. Since its inception as the APT in 1978, the AAST Annual Meeting has been a collaborative endeavor with technologists meeting alongside and interacting with the physicians at the annual SLEEP meeting. This was a precedent set prior to the AAST being managed by the AASM. Sadly, we have been informed by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies leadership that, beginning in 2018, the AAST will be unable to participate in the annual SLEEP meeting. The AAST board is currently deliberating alternatives, including a separate meeting or a meeting in collaboration with other sleep medicine organizations. The AAST Annual Meeting, always an outstanding educational offering for participants at all levels, will continue as the flagship meeting for the organization with the continued support of our leaders, members, supporters, and new management team.
Rest assured that the AAST will continue to advocate for our membership in collaboration and cooperation with key stakeholders in the field of sleep medicine, including the AASM, Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists, Committee on Accreditation for Polysomnographic Technologist Education/Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, Health Professions Network, durable/home medical equipment providers, National Sleep Foundation, American Sleep Apnea Association, nursing, insurers, regulators, and others. The AAST hosted a summit to explore the future of sleep technology in 2013, which included representatives from many of these diverse groups, and strongly supports a unified approach to shaping the future of sleep medicine. The white paper from that summit is available on our website at A2Zzz Archive Vol 23, No 3. The AAST plans to continue working with the entire range of organizations and individuals in the field. The board of directors has expressed interest in developing an AAST advisory board with representation from all stakeholders—expect to hear more about this and have an opportunity to have your voice heard on this issue in the coming months.
A Focus on Collaboration
A strong AAST focus over the past 2 years has been to support state and regional sleep societies and provide programs throughout the country to make educational programs more accessible to our members. The board is committed to actively supporting as many state and regional events as possible, providing speakers and a presence at many venues, as well as partnering with others to provide educational courses to meet the diverse needs of our membership. In 2016, we partnered with the Southern Sleep Society for a course focused on patient education, provided an excellent management-level AAST spring course focused on risk management in the sleep center, produced a well-received diverse educational program at the AAST Annual Meeting in Denver, and developed a solid Fundamentals Fall Course. This year we plan to continue partnering and collaborating with other societies to develop the best educational programs possible for those entering, practicing, and expanding their roles within our profession. We anticipate our expanded technology will assist in making high-quality educational offerings accessible, meaningful, and affordable.
A future focus includes reaching out to the international community to assess their educational and support needs and to offer meaningful value to those practicing in all areas. We begin our foray into the international market by exhibiting at the Canadian Sleep Society meeting in April this year and will be attending the World Sleep Congress in Prague in October. We envision our new management assisting us to expand the AAST to a global position in the field of sleep technology. This will include outreach to new groups, live streaming of educational offerings, and an accessible library of high-quality/high-value educational modules available to support the learning needs of all, regardless of where they are in the world!
A Foundation for Moving Forward
The AAST board responded promptly when membership began to decline, with positive results that we expect to see continue for the foreseeable future. We strongly believe that this is a growing field and that there are many entering our arena who would benefit from AAST membership. Within our traditional ranks, we have increased our membership for each of the last 3 years, gaining an overall 10% increase per year in contrast to the 10% loss that had been projected. We believe our relevance and the quality of our educational offerings have driven this growth, and our outreach and focused collaboration with our partner organizations has expanded our ranks of reinstated members to the benefit of the profession as a whole. We hope to continue this growth to provide excellence in education for all staff involved in the sleep program as we move forward in this era of outcomes-focused care.
As we move forward, the AAST board of directors sincerely thanks the AASM staff who have served the association well for many years and provided a solid foundation on which we can build. As we continue our transition, we will provide contact information for our new AAST headquarters office and staff. We will be providing updates on our website as well as answers to frequently asked questions, and welcome your feedback as we move through this process.
We strongly believe this new partnership is the right move at the right time for our organization and that it will allow us to serve our members at the highest level possible. If you are not already an AAST member, we hope you will join us as we expand our capabilities and services well into the future.
Laura Linley, RPSGT, CRTT, is AAST president. Rita Brooks, M Ed, RPSGT, is AAST president-elect.