By Sheila Watson
When the bard wrote, “to sleep, perchance to dream, ay there’s the rub,” little did he know those words would one day sum up a serious productivity and health issue many people face.
“Sleep disorders are not only a serious health issue but a huge problem for productivity as well,” said Dr. Joseph Krainin, founder of Singular Sleep, a telehealth startup in Mount Pleasant.
A recent report by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) notes that an estimated 29.4 million Americans – about 12 percent of the population – suffer from sleep apnea. The economic side effects of undiagnosed sleep apnea are staggering: about $149.6 billion, including $87 billion in lost productivity, $26 billion in automobile accidents, and $6.5 billion in workplace accidents.
The report also points out that, if left untreated, sleep apnea can contribute to other health issues such as heart disease, hypertension, depression ,and diabetes, which incurs another $30 billion per year in increased health care and medication costs to treat these issues.
Dr. Krainin, a board-certified neurologist and sleep physician, is affiliated with the Medical University of South Carolina. He earned his medical degree from Tufts University. His 11 years in practice include a stint as medical director of a Michigan State University-affiliated sleep center and director of medical services for the Orlando Magic, where he treated athletes for sleep disorders and other health conditions. Dr. Krainin recently established Singular Sleep to treat the entire spectrum of sleep disorders. The clinic operates as a virtual sleep center, in which the diagnosis comes from tests the patient does at home and the office visits are in the form of web meetings.
His services include online consultations, home testing for sleep apnea, and sleep health products. Sleep apnea is the major focus of his work, although he offers treatment for a wide range of sleep disorders.
“What we’re doing is revolutionary,” said Dr. Krainin. “We’re helping to empower people to take control of their health. Patients can come to us directly in a timely, cost-effective way. They’re being proactive with their health care.”
Telemedicine is not new, but it is new to the sleep disorder field.
“Telemedicine has been used mostly for behavioral medicine,” he said. “Psychotherapists meeting with patients for anxiety and depression, for instance. My ‘light bulb’ moment was when I was seeing patients clinically, doing sleep studies with patients, and I realized I could meet with them in the same way.”
Dr. Krainin said three types of people typically find value in his services.
“I’ve found that most fall into these basic categories: Those with high-deductible plans, who find our services more affordable; the under-served, in areas where they would have to go many miles for treatment; and those who cannot leave home for various reasons.”
As insurance companies drive members more and more toward high-deductible plans, Singular Sleep’s business model brings an even greater value. Dr. Krainin said that the cost of treatment for sleep disorders in tradition, insurance-based cases can run as high as $8,000. The cost for his patients – including tests, diagnoses, doctor visits, and the necessary medical equipment and supplies to treat the disorder – is usually under $1,000.
“We offer comprehensive solutions,” he said, “and a doctor always greets the patients [in the online meetings]. The entire experience, including diagnosing and managing, is physician-led.”
Dr. Krainin has a specific goal to help businesses regain some of the lost productivity and help improve employee health and wellness. For example, logistics, shipping and trucking companies can have their drivers tested for sleep apnea proactively rather than risk accidents.
“Some drivers out there have undiagnosed sleep apnea and in some cases that has been determined to be the cause of an accident,” he said. “Regulations for truckers are getting tighter, and sometimes there are red flags that end up with referrals from the department of transportation.”
With Singular Sleep’s telemedicine model, Dr. Krainin can screen a large volume of people at once and he can meet anywhere at the trucker’s convenience.
“We’re meeting virtually, so I can meet the trucker at a truck stop,” he said. “Time is money, and the trucker won’t waste time coming to an office. It’s very cost effective.”
Other large companies with various shifts can also benefit from his services.
“A company like Boeing, for example, has shift workers who have to flip their sleep schedule on the weekend,” he said.
Dr. Krainin said flipping sleep schedules can lead to sleep deprivation and end up taking a toll on both the worker’s health and productivity.
“There’s also the growing problem of ‘presenteeism’ – where people show up for work but they’re not firing on all cylinders because they didn’t sleep well,” he said.
This is where Dr. Krainin can help, with large-scale screening and testing for employees.
He pointed out that employers are recognizing the need for rest, with some companies even installing sleep pods where employees can take naps. More and more companies are emphasizing wellness with various programs.
“It’s time to go to the next level and recognize how vital sleep is – for the individual and the bottom line,” he said.
Singular Sleep (www.singularsleep.com) currently offers online consultations and home sleep tests in 13 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Dr. Krainin hopes to expand the list to all 50 states soon. The sleep health products and supplies can be purchased and shipped anywhere in the United States.