ApniCure combines DTC, telehealth business model

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Friday, January 27, 2017

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – For many patients struggling with obstructive sleep apnea, the longtime standard treatment— CPAP therapy—may not be worse than the condition itself, but pretty close. 

In fact, according to David Jones, chief business officer at Redwood City, Calif.-based ApniCure, upwards of 50% of sleep apnea patients who start using CPAP don’t continue the therapy. Moreover, many patients give up altogether on finding an effective treatment.

With its recent decision to release the new Winx Sleep Therapy System direct to consumers, ApniCure is aiming to change that. The Winx is less obtrusive, Jones says, using a soft, flexible mouthpiece that fits comfortably in the mouth and a slim tube to connect to a console.

While the Winx has been available for some time, to date ApniCure has worked exclusively with sleep labs, as labs have traditionally been the place where most patients are prescribed CPAP therapy, Jones says.

“We realized, however,” he said, “that when patients give up on their masks, they often give up on treatment entirely and never go back to the lab.”

Consequently, ApniCure decided the best way to introduce the Winx was directly to consumers. The company now connects interested patients with a growing network of sleep therapists who conduct a diagnosis and determine whether a prescription is appropriate.

It helped that about a year ago the American Academy of Sleep Medicine announced a policy approving telehealth as an effective way for sleep therapists to diagnose or interact with patients, Jones says.

“Once telemedicine was embraced,” he explained, “we thought it would make a lot of sense to do a video conference with board-certified physicians.”

Currently, Winx is available only in California, but the company plans to make it available next year across much of the country.