Do your patients suffer from sleep issues? A new sleep sensor and accompanying app could help them learn why. We spoke with Michael Kisch, co-founder and CEO of Beddr, to learn more about the SleepTuner. Here’s what he had to say about the product and the app, how it might help patients and providers, and how he expects it to impact the future of healthcare technology:
How does the Beddr SleepTuner use clinical insights and predictive analytics to ensure a better sleeping experience?
When we designed the product, we designed it with a number of leading sleep physicians partnering with us and understanding what data do they rely upon to really understand what are some of the causal factors to sleep issues. So those are things like respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, looking for stoppages in breathing, heart rate, heart rate volatility, as well as an individual’s sleeping position. Because our product can be owned and used repeatedly within the home, we now are able to sort of understand the impact of these changes that people make. And it’s by looking at that impact across a very broad population of people that allows us to go into the front end of the system and actually suggest to people: Here are the types of things you could do to improve the quality of your sleep that have a high probability of working for you.
How do you expect the product to benefit healthcare professionals?
Right now, the way the sleep medicine system is structured, it’s very difficult to engage with that patient on an ongoing basis, and a lot of what makes that difficult is just the way that reimbursement is structured within the sleep medicine field. This is a product that now a person can continue to use, and it’s gathering data that they can bring back to their physician, and the physician will absolutely understand all of this data and what that data means because it’s the same data that they’ve been trained to work with for however long they’ve ultimately been practicing medicine.
Really want to understand what data [are] being gathered, how it’s being processed, how the algorithms work, and so we do things in the way that we look at drops in blood oxygen level, we use the same basic methodology that they’ve used in their clinics for multiple decades. Physicians are helping us understand where they would like to see improvement to help them improve the way that they deliver care to their patients.
What would you say your vision is for the future of the product?
What we’ve learned in just a recent study that we reviewed with [inaudible] is that there’s an overwhelming percentage of people who are concerned about their sleep. It’s about 42 percent. And 85 percent of those, if they’re made aware that they might be at risk for something, they want to take that information and go meet with a clinician. And we feel like we can build a system that just makes it easier for those people to learn what may be wrong, but then to facilitate that transition to where they can actually work with an expert who can look at all the data that has come off the device, they can gather additional information, and they can use their expertise and intuition and bedside manner to really help people understand what’s wrong with them as well as direct them to what the best therapy would be.
How do you anticipate products such as the SleepTuner to continue playing a role in the future of healthcare technology?
It’s just about making things more accessible and more engaging. Sleep, like many chronic issues, it really requires the active participation of an individual. And the doctor can’t solve this for you; there’s not a pill, there’s not, in most cases, a surgical procedure where you just do that and it’s done. This is about making sustainable and healthy changes in behavior. And I think our view is that really the future of sleep medicine is about using technology in such a way that it’s present and it’s motivating and it’s engaging people, even when they’re not able to be in front of their physician.
Can you take me through what a user’s experience would look like using the product?
What a person will do over the first two or three nights is they will place the device, it’s actually worn on the forehead, and it’s about the size of a quarter, it’s about the weight of a nickel, it connects to your forehead with a hypoallergenic, medical-grade adhesive, and it’s on your forehead for a couple of reasons: One is that it’s incredibly comfortable. There’s generally not a lot of sensitivity in the upper forehead, so people will sleep with this and it doesn’t alter their sleep, which is something that we have traditionally seen. The other issue and the reason for the forehead is that you get a really good signal for things like blood oxygen, for heart rate — off of the forehead. So it’s a clinically validated position on the body to gather that type of information using optical sensors.
And then the third thing that we really like about the position on the forehead is that for people who have breathing issues when they sleep, and there are about 54 million people in the U.S. who struggle with that, one of the really easy ways for them to actually improve their breathing is just to understand the position of their head when they sleep.
After the person will use this for a couple of nights, we’ve established a baseline, and the person is guided in the app to suggest changes that they can make that then can be measured. So what we see is people every couple of weeks or months post the initial baseline, they’ll actually sleep again with the device just to determine is their sleep the same quality, has it declined, are there other things that they can try to essentially improve it?
And is there anything else you think we should know about the SleepTuner?
I think that one other thing given the audience that you’re writing for is sleep medicine is a very interesting field. There’s about 6,500 board certified sleep physicians in the U.S., so it’s not a large group, it’s not a large specialty. And we spend a lot of time with them. They’re very well-meaning, very well-intentioned, but they are also sort of fighting a fight that’s a losing battle. And that is the fact that as individuals become more aware of the importance of sleep, they want to do things to improve it, and that is placing huge demands on the existing system. And we really think of what we’re doing as it’s not a way to disintermediate or remove the need for the physician, but it’s a way to help them scale the expertise they have to really better meet this challenge head on. You think about the U.S., where you’ve only got a relatively small number of physicians, and you begin to look outside the U.S., where sleep medicine is not really as developed as a specialty, the problem just becomes worse and worse. That is really I think where we’ve seen a lot of excitement is the problems that we’re solving, the individual user sees them, but the physicians that we work with, they see it as well.