Health Tech World talks to Wesper CEO Amir Reuveny about how the innovative technology is transforming sleep tracking and improving the diagnosis and management of sleep apnea.
What is Wesper and what do you hope to achieve with the technology?
Wesper is the most comprehensive sleep diagnostic management platform on market today.
We help providers and caregivers to expedite their diagnostic and treatment services.
Until today, sleep medicine didn’t have tools that could track patient progress over time.
We also make it very easy and comfortable for the patient to receive a diagnosis and get feedback on their sleep.
So there’s wearable device and a digital side of the platform as well?
It’s a fully vertical system that includes proprietary sensors that are very flexible and comfortable to wear.
We also have a Bluetooth-enable app that allows you to see your data and get feedback on your sleep test.
The app transmits everything to the cloud, giving the provider a full study view, just like as if it was done in a sleep lab.
You do it at home the data gives your physician everything they need in order to diagnose and track sleep apnea.
What kind of data do you collect?
We have around 16 channels and we are adding more.
This includes respiratory effort from both chest and abdomen, heart rate, oxygen saturation, snoring, heart rate variability, sleep position, sleep latency and efficiency and skin temperature.
What are the shortcomings of traditional sleep testing methods?
Sleep medicine and sleep diagnostics started with traditional sleep labs which are very cumbersome and expensive.
Someone needs to pay for space, the patient has to leave the house and sleep in a different environment to what they’re used to. So many people just won’t bother.
This used to be the go-to way of diagnosing sleep problems.
And with sleep labs, you can only test for one night. But this is a problem because people don’t sleep the same way every night. You might sleep on your back more on one night than the other, for example.
And then once you get some type of therapy to improve your sleep, you cannot track it by going to a sleep lab.
From 2008, the US started to see a wave of home sleep testing that tried to mimic the experience of sleep lab. This included a bulky recording box that you put on your chest.
This did make it easier to test at home. However, you still could not measure over a long period of time or track your data as a patient.
On the physician side, this actually increased the burden in some cases.
They needed to give the home sleep test to the patient, wait until they bring it back, then send it to someone else. There were a lot of operations around it.
This is why we developed Wesper.
You can easily test at home and the wireless, soft, flexible patches give the physician the same information as older devices.
I’m a strong believer in keeping the workflow for providers. They are so busy. So we kept the type of signals the same so it’s very easy for them to track.
But now, rather than testing in a single night, you can do it over a long period of time. The user gets that data and feedback and the physician can see how you’re improving and guide you through the process.
We’ve seen a lot of cases recently where people are continuing to track their sleep after being diagnosed with a sleep disorder.
Is there an affordability element to this as well?
Yes, of course. It’s a fraction of the cost of a sleep lab. An order of magnitude, if not more, just for the for the test itself.
And the ongoing management is much more affordable as well.
How is your technology identifying underlying sleep issues that traditional methods might not pick up?
One of the big things is the breadth of information that we provide to the physician.
With this data, a physician can distinguish whether the individual has obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea or oppositional sleep apnea.
We’re able to actually measure how many times you stopped breathing throughout the night. This allows us to determine the severity of the apnea.
Because you can see averages and trends, you can provide a specific therapy, for example, a CPAP, or an oral appliance to improve the sleep apnea. And then you can actually see that it’s working.
Until now, you had to send another sleep test or bring the patient back to the sleep lab.
Our test is improving accuracy, which is important.
A single night test was recently reported to have up to a 20 per cent of misdiagnosis rate.
You end up misdiagnosing them because you’re only looking at a very short window of their sleep. Now you can also shorten the time to get to the optimal therapy for your lifestyle.
In the US, CPAP is the gold standard for sleep apnea. But it has less than 50 per cent compliance after six months.
Most people abandon this type of therapy, but they don’t abandon the disorder. They still have sleep apnea.
So what type of therapy can you offer them as a physician? Is it an oral appliance? Positional therapy, maybe surgery?
Having this platform allows you to provide a therapy, track and see if it’s working and give feedback to the patient.
What is the link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular health? Why is it important to diagnose sleep apnea as soon as possible?
There is there is a strong link between cardiovascular diseases and sleep apnea.
In fact, sleep apnea increases your risk for heart disease by three to five times and there’s around a 70 per cent overlap between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease.
It’s important to diagnose and treat sleep apnea, because doing so actually reduces the risk over time.
It’s very important to make sure that people with heart disease are actually diagnosed properly for sleep apnea. But most devices out there are not able to detect it appropriately.
We are the only one that is both easy for the patient and also very accurate in that regard.
When did you launch the product?
We’ve been developing the product for a couple of years, officially launching this version in March this year.
We’ve since seen immense growth on the business side. We’ve signed with several hospitals and we are growing three to four times per quarter. It’s been a pretty fun ride so far!
What did the R&D process look like?
It was really interesting and something of an adventure. The first piece was understanding the problem.
I got very motivated by looking at a sleep lab and thinking to myself, there must be a better way. There is no way that you have to go through this entire process in the 21st century.
I realised that all the sleep apnea symptoms that I read about, I knew from my Dad at home: loud snoring, sleeping in weird positions and so on.
During one of our early pilots, I brought him to a sleep lab, and he was actually diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea.
He probably had this conditions for 20-30 years but didn’t even know because he didn’t have access to the resources to get tested.
This has driven me to make testing accessible for people so they know when to take action.
My father did stop smoking and he became much more aware of his condition. But he still needs feedback to see how he is progressing.
After the initial pilot phase, I spoke with dozens of sleep technicians, sleep lab managers and physicians, to understand their workflow.
I spent many nights in sleep labs to see how physicians hook up the patients and look at the signals. I then came up with the idea of a smart patch that can calculate the airflow in a way that is approved by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Then we started doing experiments, starting on the bench, then on ourselves, before moving onto our first clinical trial in 2018 or 2019.
In the very first patients, we could already see a very high correlation between what Wesper provided and what the sleep lab offered, which was a very exciting moment for us.
Since then, we built the experience, focused on the app and refined the product, making it softer, more comfortable and easier to use.
We’ve also worked on various aspect of usability and patient engagement and ensuring that the technology serves the provider in the best way possible.
What are your plans over the coming months and years as you look to scale?
We are going to grow our go to market team and we’re going to work with more hospitals and other partners so we can expand the reach of Wesper as the number one solution in the market today.
We also have a lot of other interesting initiatives that you’ll probably hear about in the next few months, as we expand into other areas.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
There is a very strong correlation between your sleep quality and almost any other type of comorbidity or wellness areas.
So we are very interested in working with companies in other arenas, such as nutrition exercise, mental health, to really bring sleep into the conversation.
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