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Turning to Telehealth For a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep therapy is a hot topic in mHealth circles these days. It showed up at Health 2.0 last year, will be at the CES show in Las Vegas, and is part of new platforms being launched by a national organization and a few startups.

By Eric Wicklund

- The latest trend in telehealth? Using IT to catch some Zs.

The advent of remote monitoring platforms has pushed sleep therapy out of the lab and into the bedroom, where specialists or even primary care providers can keep tabs on a patient’s sleep patterns and physiological signs through a typical night.

Roughly 70 million Americans have problems sleeping, with about 60 percent suffering from a chronic issue like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea. That’s given rise to a global sleep-aid market – which now includes wearable and sensor technology – that’s expected to top $76 billion in less than five years.

It has also prompted the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a 40-year-old network of some 11,000 specialists, to launch a telemedicine platform this month. Several startups are also in the space or soon will be, and sleep technology has made its way onto the agendas of at least two major conferences.

The AASM’s platform, formerly known as Tell A Sleep Doc, is going live on January 19 as AASM Sleep TM, a web-based video platform that enables real-time consults between consumers and specialists or accredited sleep centers (the organization estimates there are more than 2,500 centers and 5,600 accredited physicians in the U.S.).

READ MORE: mHealth, Telehealth Providers Target Growing Senior Care Market

The platform includes online questionnaires, a sleep diary and a sleep log and can synch with Fitbit devices.

“As the first telemedicine system designed by a professional society for the specific needs of a medical subspecialty, AASM SleepTM is a game-changer for people who are suffering from a sleep disease,” Dr. Nathaniel Watson, president of the Darien, Ill.-based AASM, said in a press release. “Throughout the country, including underserved urban communities and remote rural areas, patients will gain convenient access to the expertise of sleep specialists through AASM SleepTM.

Among the startups in the space is Singular Sleep, based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., and launched last month by Joseph Krainin, MD, FAASM, a board-certified neurologist with ties to the Medical University of South Carolina and Tufts University School of Medicine who served as medical director of a Michigan State University-affiliated sleep center. Krainin’s platform offers sleep products, online consults and testing for sleep apnea in 13 states.

Using telemedicine to get a good night’s sleep – or to understand why some people can’t – isn’t a new idea. Back in 2010, Royal Philips Electronics and Cinterion Wireless joined forces to market one of the first mobile devices enabling patients with sleep apnea to communicate at home with their care providers. Soon after, Cleveland Medical Devices and Midmark hit the market with the Midmark SleepView Monitor and SleepView Portal, which reduced diagnostic testing and treatment costs by some 70 percent in pilot programs.

Last year, CleveMed connected the dots between sleep therapy and the provider with the launch of the SleepView Web Portal API, designed to import data from the SleepView platform into cloud-based provider platforms and EMRs.

READ MORE: Telehealth Looks to Digital Diagnostics to Improve Virtual Care

"Sharing our data with EMRs will allow our customers to more easily demonstrate cost savings and clinical benefit generated from their sleep apnea care. This is particularly beneficial to larger physician groups such as Accountable Care Organizations whose revenue can be enhanced with improved population health management," Sarah Weimer, CleveMed's Director of Sleep Products, said in a news release.

Also last year, the National Sleep Foundation formed the Sleep Technology Council and hosted the first-ever Sleep Technology Summit & Expo as part of the Health 2.0 conference in October.

"Innovation abounds in sleep technology, as more and more consumers around the world bring sleep tracking devices into the bedroom on their wrists or on their beds," David Cloud, the foundation's CEO, said in a July press release launching the council, which includes several mHealth companies. "Sleep is as vital to health and wellness as fitness and diet, so new technologies that help users understand and improve their sleep will have an enormous impact on overall consumer health. We're excited to bring the innovators in sleep technology together to discuss what's next."

The NSF also announced a partnership with the Consumer Electronics Association to create a Wearable Sleep Monitors Working Group, which is working on standards for consumer-facing sleep-measuring technology; that topic should come up in discussions at the Digital Health Summit when CES 2016 opens this week in Las Vegas.

"Sleep is as vital to our health as eating right and exercise," David Cloud, the NSF’s CEO, said in a press release announcing the CEA partnership. "We know that getting enough sleep and getting quality sleep have amazing health benefits, including improved mood, concentration, memory and productivity, and the ability to maintain a healthy weight. Given the technology to properly monitor their own sleep quality, consumers can better understand the link between their sleep and their health and set goals for improvement."


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