SleepCharge brings 'virtual sleep clinic' to work

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Poor sleep is a pervasive and damaging problem for the majority of the population: 70% of Americans report getting insufficient sleep and 50 million people have been diagnosed with 80 different sleep disorders, according to the American Sleep Association.

Our struggle for quality sleep is affecting productivity and driving up healthcare costs, says John Letter, president of SleepCharge, a benefit platform by Nox Health. The platform diagnoses and provides treatment for sleep issues and disorders. Sleep apnea, for example, affects 26% of the population and costs Americans $165 billion per year in costs associated with lost productivity and risks associated with the disorder, including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and mental health issues.

“Ninety percent of people we treat find healthy sleep, and there is an impact on their overall healthcare costs,” says Letter, noting that their clients have seen up to 25% savings in healthcare costs. “If you’re sleeping, you’re healthier. We’ve seen dramatic changes in people’s physiology because they’re sleeping well.”

The SleepCharge platform works as a “virtual sleep clinic,” Letter says, and provides a full spectrum of care. Utilizing technology is crucial to making sleep treatment easy, accessible and long-lasting, putting it directly in the hands of the consumer, he says.

Letter discussed the role of technology in bringing better sleep to employees and why sleep benefits are good for business.

How is sleep deprivation affecting work performance?

We spend a third of our lives hopefully sleeping, and it's foundational to our overall health. But we live in a 24/7 society, and we’re constantly connected. We have our smart phones by our side constantly. We have computers where they shouldn't be in our beds. That really has an impact on our performance.

Statistically, people who have poor sleep or had even one poor night of sleep are 50% less productive. They're almost three times more likely to have a workplace accident. And poor sleep has such an impact across your overall health and well-being. Your state of mind, how you're working, whether you're on or off, your mood, how you deal with stress — all of those things have a tremendous impact on people's healthcare. People with sleep disorders are 2-4 times more expensive than the average health plan member. Sleep apnea alone costs our country upward of $165 billion annually.

How is SleepCharge addressing the cost and care of managing sleep disorders?

People suffer for 10 years on average with a sleep disorder before they've been diagnosed. So our goal is to create awareness, provide resources, and in some circumstances, therapies for people who have sleep disorders in the comfort of their home. It's a virtual sleep clinic. There's no need for you to navigate the healthcare system yourself.

We assess populations, giving them access to find out how they're sleeping and providing them with self-directed programming to make simple behavioral and environmental changes. We also provide medical diagnosis and treatment plans for things like sleep apnea or insomnia or physical restlessness. Additionally, there are behavioral and clinical experts who help get people to the care that they need and stay in the care.

Traditionally, I'd go to my primary care physician, who sends me to a sleep specialist, who sends me to a sleep lab. Nox takes care of that [through the platform], what we call the entire continuum of care: assessing them, diagnosing them, giving them their treatment and their treatment plans and then providing ongoing care to help them stay on their treatments.

How has technology aided in the treatment of sleep disorders?

Technology has allowed us to deliver these pathways and therapies in ways that historically, you wouldn't be able to do. Ten years ago, you would go to your primary care physician and tell them that you're not sleeping well, and then they would send you to a sleep specialist. But now, we can use technology to deliver care to people in their home.

There’s also the awareness and acceptance that's happening in the marketplace as it relates to people's overall health, and it's awareness that's been created by technology. Wearable technology has helped with that awareness too. As it relates to sleep, mainstream media is beginning to understand what science has known for years, which is that poor sleep has a huge impact on your overall health. Technology has helped us to innovate, and I think that companies are seeing that this is a great way to provide a benefit for what is a biological imperative: We have to sleep to live.

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