Interview with the President of the Swiss Society for Sleep Research, Sleep Medicine and Chronobiology (SSSRSMC), Dr. Heinzer

Published in ESRS Newsletter July 2016


Dear Dr. Heinzer, what is the status of the accreditation procedures for sleep medicine experts? Can you explain how the procedure works?

In Switzerland, we recently reviewed the requirements for obtaining the sleep medicine certificate of the SSSSC. Pulmonologists, neurologists and psychiatrists need to work full time for 6 months in a “teaching sleep center” recognized by our society on top of their specialty certificate. They also need to perform a catalogue of various sleep investigations and consultations, under supervision, in the different areas of sleep medicine.

Is such an accreditation procedure planned only for physicians or also for other professional figures like psychologists, technicians etc.?

There is also a “somnologist” certificate for psychologists and PhD’s with its own requirements. It allows these scientists to perform and interpret sleep studies and to see patients in collaboration with MD’s.

Do you also have an accreditation procedure for sleep centers?

Yes, we do. The government asked our society to define structural and quality criteria for Sleep centers to be accredited. This accreditation is needed to receive reimbursement from health insurances.

Do you have accreditation procedures for centers with different characteristics (multidisciplinary, respiratory specific, pediatrics etc)?

No, we only have one type of sleep center, which needs to demonstrate that they are able to diagnose and treat the whole spectrum of sleep disorders. However, pulmonologists (and recently otorhinolaryngologists) are allowed to perform respiratory polygraphy for the diagnosis of sleep disordered breathing, even though they are not part of an accredited sleep laboratory.

Is sleep medicine officially included in academic programs?

Each university offers a various number of lectures on sleep and sleep disorders for medical students, but sleep is not recognized as a specific academic field.

Do you organize accredited sleep medicine courses?

Each university provides postgraduate courses. There is also the Alpine Sleep Summer School (The European course in sleep medicine) organized in Lugano every second year.

Are you working toward achieving the recognition of sleep medicine as a medical sub-specialty?

This would be the ultimate goal! Our Certificate is recognized by our government but not officially yet by the Swiss medical association. This would be the first step for us.

Is basic research in the sleep field represented in the Swiss Society for Sleep Research, Sleep Medicine and Chronobiology activities?

Yes of course! We have a large number of PhD members in our society. We always manage to include symposia about chronobiology and basic science in our annual meetings, and many of our past presidents were PhD’s in basic science (Prof Borbély was one of them).

Thank you, Dr. Heinzer, for participating in this interview.

Lino Nobili