Interview with Sleep Expert Patrick Yam
Patrick Yam spent 25 years as CEO of Sensei Partners, a California-based private investment firm, where he helped build companies. Yam serves as Somnology’s CEO, chairman, and co-founder, and he recently took the time to speak with Somnology sleep blog. He talked about the company’s early days, its current work with the National Institutes of Health to reduce morbidity and its latest sleep monitoring product, Plex® Sleep Scanner.
Tell me a little about the history of Somnology.
Somnology started when Melissa Lim, a board certified sleep physician with two decades of experience, saw the emergence of sleep disorders in her patients and recognized that it needed investigating. Melissa initiated efforts alone and developed a widely used software app predicated on cognitive behavior therapy. The app asks targeted questions and recommends behavior changes to improve sleep.
Melissa, upon completion of this app and its adoption, determined that there need for something greater. She wanted to help people have control of the assessment of their sleep disorder in an affordable and convenient way on a continuous basis.
At that time, I had recently sold my company. Melissa and I are friends, and she asked me to review a PowerPoint presentation. Following this, we decided to jointly launch a new company named Somnology for the purpose of developing a medical enterprise focused on the assessment of sleep disorders.
Somnology has matured from concept and is nearing commercialization of the Plex® Sleep Scanner, a wearable sleep monitoring device that is worn on the upper abdomen.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep is so important, because today 70 million Americans are afflicted with sleep disorders, and according to the World Health Organization, there are 1 billion people worldwide. This is increasing at an epidemic rate of 9% and is no longer a benign secondary health concern. A recent Harvard Medical School study assessed the cost of sleep disorders, and it estimated the economic and medical costs at between $65-$167 billion a year worldwide.
What impact does sleep play in healthcare?
It is Somnology’s belief that there is a correlation between sleep disorders and that of one’s overall health. We believe that sleep disorders may be a precursor to the accentuation of morbidities such as Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes and many others.
Tell me a little about Somnology’s work with the National Institutes of Health. How does it fit with the company’s goals?
In 2016, Somnology entered into discussions with NIH on a fully funded medical study on the impact of sleep and sleep disorders on metabolic health, mainly obesity. This culminated in the execution of a collaboration agreement between the NIH and Somnology in mid-2017. As discussed earlier, this fits with Somnology’s goals to improve heath care by working with the NIH and other national medical institutes to determine whether there is a correlation between sleep/sleep disorders and the severity of that correlation with morbidities.
What are Somnology’s products?
Currently Somnology’s products are a free app, SomnologyMobileDoc, which has garnered the interest of 30,000 international followers. The second Somnology product is the Plex® Sleep Scanner, a medical device with high correlation and accuracy to the readily accepted index for sleep disorders, the Apnea Hypopnea Index (API).
The Plex® is a medical device that has five monitors and two channels. It is worn on your upper abdomen and collects your sleep data as you rest. The data is transmitted in the morning to a secure server on a cloud platform. Upon transmission, the collected data is calculated using the proprietary Somnology sleep scoring methodology. Subsequently the data is translated onto a report that is written in an easily comprehensible form for the consumer and user to best determine what to take action on. This is the distinction between the Plex® Sleep Scanner, a digital healthcare device, that provides determinable and actionable steps.
What is your role within Somnology?
My role is to strategically lead Somnology to its fulfillment and success.
Tele-medicine has the potential to be a large part of the medical industry. Explain why data collection can play such a big role in that process.
The Plex® is a true reflection of the convergence between telemetry and healthcare. It is not just a matter that data can be collected, but also the data can be translated into actionable and determinable steps. Increasingly, telemedicine has a growing role in improving healthcare.