NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION — BlueSleep, a SleepTech® member of the National Sleep Foundation, is a telemedicine company focusing on the treatment of sleep apnea and snoring. Check out NSF’s interview with the company’s founder Jordan Stern, MD (a Head and Neck Surgeon and Sleep Specialist) to learn more about the convergence of consumer tech and the clinical world, how BlueSleep is increasingly awareness about sleep, and what’s next for the company.
NSF: Can you tell us what BlueSleep is all about?
Dr. Stern: BlueSleep is a company I founded 10 years ago based on the treatment of sleep apnea and snoring. We’re based in downtown Manhattan and at first we operated as a medical practice mostly using home sleep tests and oral appliances for sleep apnea. I did that for eight years and two years ago started working on the BlueSleep telemedicine company. The idea is to scale our services outside of New York, and we’re currently in 14 states in the U.S. with medical licenses to practice in those 14 states with board certified sleep specialists. Our company is a telemedicine for sleep company that uses the newest tech for diagnosis and in many cases uses non-CPAP treatments.
NSF: What opportunities are you seeing in the SleepTech Industry right now?
Dr. Stern: I think we’re at a turning point right now. For the past five or ten years SleepTech was very much divided from the medical service side of sleep. I think that a convergence is happening now between the consumer tech world and the medical services world. I’ve been working very closely with some of the largest tech companies in evaluating their technology and comparing it to medical tech used for evaluating snoring and sleep apnea. Those companies are looking for a connection to the medical services industry. If you’re wearing a sleep tracker and you have a problem, what do you do next? That next step is important, and that’s where connecting with medical services comes into play. At BlueSleep we’ve made that connection our priority, working with consumer tech companies and offering them tech forward consumer medical solutions. In our telemedicine service, we have availability for consumers to see one of our sleep doctors 7 days a week by simply going online and scheduling an appointment. The process is convenient, efficient, and inexpensive.
NSF: How have you seen the SleepTech industry change over the past few years?
Dr. Stern: The visibility for sleep problems has continued to increase, and the most important thing I see is the tech companies connecting with tech-forward clinical companies. I think that’s the biggest change. We need to get people to track their sleep and think about their sleep and at the same time give them a real solution that will fix the problem.
NSF: What challenges still need to be overcome in the SleepTech industry?
Dr. Stern: In terms of the technical challenges, the consumer industry has made it pretty easy to track sleep but continuous improvement is needed when it comes to the device’s capacity to really define and evaluate sleep. We’ve seen a lot of improvement there already. Additionally, we still have a problem from an awareness standpoint. For example, probably 40-50 million people in the US have sleep apnea, but only 10% of those people even know they have it. Awareness for sleep has improved significantly, but there is still a lot of work to be done in this area, and BlueSleep is committed to helping with that.
NSF: So how are you helping to raise awareness about SleepTech and the work you do?
Dr. Stern: Television is still a great medium. An ABC news anchor recently did a segment on sleep, and she was one of my patients. She had me on the show to talk about sleep and did a great job of making sleep a fun and digestible topic, instead of something scary and clinical. In our videos section on our website, there’s a video that another one of my patients did. He is a journalist for Tech Insider and made a great video about his treatment that got over 10 million views. Tech Insider shared the video on their Facebook, which added a lot of visibility. Social media is definitely an important channel for spreading the word about SleepTech.
NSF: What is the next big thing for BlueSleep and the SleepTech industry?
Dr. Stern: At the moment we’re raising an angel round to launch a new service for a direct to consumer brand of sleep service. You may be familiar with companies like Smile Direct Club that allow you to get aligners like Invisalign for your teeth without going to a dentist. We’re trying to do that with sleep so that sleep service is a known brand with customer service that allows consumers to easily get the help they need if they identify a sleep problem through using a consumer device like a wearable or buying a mattress. We want to close the loop between identifying an issue, and getting it fixed.