The quality of job performance and getting enough sleep go hand in hand. When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, it reflects on his/her work. Moderate amount of sleep is said to have tremendous health benefits. Right from weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight to heightened energy levels throughout the day, almost every little thing relates to the amount of sleep we get.
Looking out for the well-being of people, Patrick Yam set out to innovate a solution to help people with their sleep disorders.
Featuring for the Cover Story of The Enterprise World’s Top 5 Successful Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2022 is Patrick’s venture, Somnology.
Patrick Yam- Leading the Way-
Patrick Yam is the CEO, chairman, and co-founder of Somnology, Inc. He joined co-founder Dr. Melissa Lim in early 2015 to build a premier medical enterprise focused on the evaluation, continuous monitoring and care of sleep disorders; a problem affecting a global population of 1B people. Prior to teaming with Dr. Lim, Patrick was the CEO of Sensei Partners LLC, a Menlo Park, CA based private investment firm.
Over the course of his stellar career, Patrick has held many responsibilities like macro-economist, financial and technology executive, and institutional investor. He has been a senior advisor to two sovereign nations on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Patrick is also a professional speaker and published author. He teaches and lectures on entrepreneurship at the Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business, where he is also a SCU Regent. Previously, he served as the first dean’s executive professor of entrepreneurship and was a former faculty member of the Venture Capital Institute. He is associated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, where, as a UC Trustee, he was a founding member of the endowment investment committee as well as a senior director of the Economic Forecast Project and a senior adviser to Beacon Economics, a national economic consulting firm.
In 2019, Mr. Yam was appointed as an advisor to UCSF’s Innovation Catalyst Program to focus on digital healthcare and medical devices. In April 2020, he was appointed by UCSF Health Hub as a ‘chief business mentor”. As CEO of Somnology, he has been responsible for building and operating enterprises in the investment, financial, technology and medical sectors.
In 2012, Dr. Melissa Lim, Somnology’s chief medical officer, and a leading sleep medicine physician, created the first version of the MobileSleepDoc® Pro mobile app. This tool not only helped patients in her busy private practice, Redwood Pulmonary Medical Associates, but anyone with a smartphone who had trouble sleeping. The app helped patients to track their sleep and log in symptoms (e.g., insomnia) so they could share data during their visit.
After re-releasing it in 2014, Patrick and Dr. Lim partnered to create Somnology, Inc.
“We shared a vision of bringing best practices in sleep medicine to light, through a solution that could ensure that anyone who suffers from sleep disorders — an estimated 70 million Americans — has access to affordable and comprehensive care.”
Patrick has an extensive background in business growth and knew that Dr. Lim was onto something big. By partnering together, Patrick aimed to generate the momentum to scale the application into a fuller, more all-encompassing solution that could also be utilized by employers and health plans.
Somnology’s patented Sleep Lab as a Service (“SLaaS®”) sleep care platform utilizes their technology to give patients a comprehensive, personalized, end-to-end telehealth solution that correlates with higher-quality sleep. It starts with sophisticated wearable sleep tracking devices, such as the SomnoRing®, a ring that can capture and transmit biometric data to HIPAA-compliant servers. In this setting, trained sleep specialists can analyze data and recommend next steps, such as utilizing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or partaking in a virtual telehealth program for ongoing support.
“This approach has already improved sleep for thousands of individuals, while curbing medical costs associated with diagnostics and treatment.”
Overcoming the Challenges-
One of the greatest challenges in launching the product and starting Somnology was that no one had done anything like this before; there was little proof of concept before 2015 that millions of Americans would see the value of this approach.
Similarly, many payers and physicians had accepted the status quo: that sleep disorders had to be severe to warrant measuring and monitoring on a daily basis and that sleep diagnostic screenings needed to be done in certain settings, like a sleep center, with certain equipment. Sleep screenings were also inconvenient to patients—who had to take time out of their busy lives to schedule and attend these lengthy appointments.
Some people can’t afford to do so, and they continue to suffer with poor sleep quality. At the time, studies that linked sleep with the prevention of chronic disease flare-ups or increased productivity, were largely overlooked. Most people just accepted that poor sleep was a part of life.
“We’re finally seeing attitudes change as sleep tracking devices become more mainstream, especially as the pandemic’s early days forced the closure of in-person sleep labs.”
People are seeing the data from pilot studies with military veterans or individuals with sleep apnea, and realizing that leveraging a holistic sleep solution that’s accessible, achievable and affordable can lead to many short-term and long-term benefits.
Somnology’s Unique Offerings-
“Our approach is unique in that we see sleep health as a fundamental component to a healthy, productive life and a long-term challenge with no “quick” fix.”
Many individuals who suffer from one or more sleep disorders also suffer from other chronic comorbidities such as COPD or diabetes. They might also have lifestyle factors (e.g., obesity, tobacco use) and social determinants (e.g., lack of transportation) or even home-based challenges (a partner who snores) that impact their sleep quality. Sending these individuals to a luxury sleep resort won’t change the contributing factors influencing the quality of sleep. What’s needed is a more compassionate approach that accounts for individual challenges.
Further, the company’s comprehensive sleep-care solution doesn’t just focus on tracking sleep metrics the way others do. Somnology also has clinical support and oversight that take a troubled sleeper from tracking straight to a speedy visit with a healthcare specialist. Others out there might monitor the same metrics Somnology does, but then the patient has to take those data to a sleep center, wait months to get an appointment and participate in a generally clunky system to even start getting diagnosed with a sleep disorder.
The company’s approach is streamlined which leads to faster diagnosis and treatment – a game changer for someone who struggles to sleep.
The Road Ahead-
The impact of Covid-19 will reverberate for years to come — and Somnology certainly felt the profound aftershocks of some of the major pandemic trends — the “Great Resignation,” the transition to remote work (and healthcare at home), economic uncertainties and the mental health crisis.
The need for better sleep is universal, perhaps now more than ever, especially as more and more people are tuning into both their physical and mental health and wellbeing. Since the onset of the pandemic, workers have had to contend with multiple stressors and mental-health challenges. An April 2021 study revealed that about half of adults (47%) reported negative mental health impacts related to worry or stress from the pandemic.
What else has changed since early 2020? Business needs to prove that it can directly impact individuals, and directly improve not only their lives, but also can have a global impact across our fragile planet. Healthcare and environmental science are just two sectors where technological advances are making a major difference.
After spending a few years on their rigorous pilot testing, research and product development — which demonstrated that their proof of concept worked — they have shifted their focus to partnering with health plans and organizations to make their solution available to those who need it most. This includes transportation operators, healthcare workers and professional athletes whose vocation depends on getting good sleep. It also includes everyday Americans, like parents, former military combat officers, full time caregivers who suffer from debilitating sleep disorders.
“One recent example is our extensive work with veterans”
Between July 2019 to August 2021, Somnology’s clinical team evaluated more than 10,000 veterans residing in all 50 U.S. states, whose ages ranged from 20 to 89, for the presence of obstructive sleep apnea. The company’s commitment to working with the military increasingly continues. Through their coordinated care model, from telemedicine assessment to home sleep testing to the ability to schedule you for a full polysomnogram test at leading hospitals, they have helped the VA reduce costs by more than 60%. Somnology continues to evaluate more than 800 veterans per month for sleep disorders.
“We’re also focusing on building even greater awareness around sleep health — not just by helping individuals in optimizing and prioritizing sleep, but in making them understand the consequences of ignoring it.”
Many, if not most, Americans who suffer from sleep disorders remain undiagnosed. With their services, Somnology hopes to seize the momentum around sleep health as a key factor in employee productivity, chronic disease prevention and mental health.