HONOLULU (Sept. 14, 2012) -- Tripler Army Medical Center's Sleep Disorders Center recently earned accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

After more than a year of preparation, the center was granted the accreditation, Aug. 10. The accreditation covers areas such as clinical operations, in-lab sleep studies, and out-of-center sleep testing for a period of five years.

Tripler's Sleep Disorders Center is Army Medicine's third medical treatment facility, or MTF, to house an accredited Sleep Disorder Center. Adding to that great achievement, the center is the first non-fellowship-affiliated Army MTF to meet the national standards.

"When there is a fellowship at a hospital it means that there is a lot of manpower and training already in place, so when a new clinic comes up who doesn't have that guidance and achieve that accreditation, it is a great accomplishment," explained Richard Suvanarat, supervisor, Sleep Lab, Sleep Disorders Center. "The whole point of being accredited is to live up to the highest standards."

The four-bed center quickly evolved into a Sleep Disorders Center that provides a full range of sleep medicine services.

"(The military) population is unique and it has unusual conditions, like narcolepsy, that require day studies, so we do many day (and night) studies, (but most importantly) we follow up with all patients," said Dr. Christine Fukui, sleep medicine physician.

Fukui worked closely with Suvanarat and Dr. (Lt. Col.) Sean Dooley, former physician of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Tripler's Sleep Disorders Center, to ensure the lab and center were meet the standards set forth by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"Our command really supported us achieving this goal of accreditation since the Sleep Lab was first opened in October 2010," said Dooley, who is on his way to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, in December 2012. "The accreditation validates the rigor of our program. It reinforces how we are approaching sleep medicine."

Recently, the Sleep Disorders Center welcomed Dr. (Lt. Col.) Wanhee Choi, medical director for the center.

Under Choi's direction, the center will be continuing a new initiative to incorporate portable home sleep monitoring, which will help capture an additional 10-20 percent of the patient population the hospital still refers to outside centers. This initiative will ultimately allow the center to keep more than 50 percent of the center's patients in-house instead of referring them to another sleep lab or center.

"Not having to refer patients off-post will them save a lot of time and taxpayer dollars," Dooley said. "The ultimate goal is to increase services and improve patient care."

Tripler's Sleep Disorders Center is currently increasing staff numbers and expanding its capabilities. They are transitioning from a four-night-a-week operation to a seven-night-a-week operation, as well as adding additional sleep medicine services.

The Sleep Disorders Center works on a referral system. Patients must first visit with their primary care manager in order to have the referral placed.