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Business outlook: Small business leaders reveal trends and predictions


Real Business showcases small businesses that have exemplified innovation in 2020 on their outlook for the year ahead.

Please use the list below to flip through each business story.


Laurent Martinot


Company overview: Next generation sleep apnea solutions

Company location: Belgium

What have been key challenges for your sector in 2020″

  • Challenge 1: Clinical activities regarding sleep apnea have been vastly interrupted during the COVID-19 epidemic throughout Europe, which has caused unprecedented changes in provided health care services. Diagnosis of sleep apnea and initiation of treatment pose specific problems that need to be addressed to preserve safety of the patients and health personnel. Patients diagnosed with sleep disordered breathing are subject to a higher risk of worse outcomes than from COVID-19, due to the high prevalence of co-existent co-morbidities. In this context, sleep medicine practices are entering a new era and need to adapt rapidly to these circumstances, in order to provide the best care for patients affected with sleep apnea. Novel approaches, such as telemedicine, have played an important role in the management of these patients.
  • Challenge 2: Sleep disorders affect a substantial number of people worldwide and may be increasing in prevalence. Unfortunately, many of these disorders can go unrecognised and untreated in clinical practice. Although physicians understand that good sleep is essential to a patient’s health, approaching the issue is regularly glossed over in the primary care setting. Importantly, recent data also suggests that sleep disorders are becoming increasingly recognised in developing nations. Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is a critical determinant of health and well-being. Yet sleep apnea, a serious disease and a major cause of fatigue worldwide, remains largely undiagnosed today, with only 20% of the persons concerned aware of their condition.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned as a business this year?

  • Lesson 1: Definitely remote care, which is a mega trend in the entire industry. In the field of sleep medicine, a shift is observed in how the sleep world is approaching home sleep apnea testing. We believe this is good news for reaching the 80% undiagnosed patients estimated to have sleep apnea in Europe and other parts of the world. Utilizing home sleep testing is a way physicians can improve the overall experience for patients. Patient benefits include being in the comfort of their home or bed, incurring lower costs compared to in-lab testing, and completing the test faster. Since an open bed in a lab is not needed, scheduling and completing the process takes a fraction of the time.
  • Lesson 2: We are learning that the benefit of Sunrise’s instant availability of test results to users is a significant benefit. Early indications are that it is creating new value, such as reduction in time to therapy, which in turn may increase the chance of patients getting on compliant therapy and higher conversion rates to therapy in the direct to consumer segment. Physicians also benefit from home sleep testing by having access to sleep results much faster. Instead of having to wait weeks for results of an in-lab study, results of an home sleep test are typically available within a few minutes after the night, when performed with Sunrise technology. Keeping track of patient data is easier as well, since home sleep testing units are largely compatible with electronic medical record platforms.

What key innovations have you seen in your sector in 2020?

  • Innovation 1: Sleep providers have moved diagnosis delivery to patients” homes, without an in-facility visit. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has recommended disposable home sleep tests and advised that reusable devices be removed from service for at least 72 hours in addition to disinfection before the next use. The AASM also states that patients should not have to leave their home to receive or return the device. Video (versus live in-person) patient instruction have been incorporated more often for home sleep testing device use, and new online CPAP supplies stores give patients the option of ordering the only disposable at-home sleep test on the market, and obtaining or renewing their CPAP prescription online, along with offering price-matching on CPAP machines, masks, and other supplies from top manufacturers.
  • Innovation 2: Today we can find several sleep monitoring tools, but very few examine issues pertaining to sleep loss and sleep disorders. To address this, the team at Sunrise has discovered a better way for measuring sleep: mandibular movements have the prime advantage of being a direct proxy of how the brain regulates sleep and respiration at night. This technology allows us to observe live the adjustments performed by the brain to preserve quality sleep (read through the movements generated by upper airway muscle contractions). We have now access to an online understanding of the sleep events and the corrective measures taken by the brain to address them. Published clinical studies have also demonstrated this 3-gram sensor is very accurate when compared to in-lab sleep studies, and capable of measuring key clinical parameters that were not possible to capture outside a sleep-lab until now (respiratory effort, sleep fragmentation, bruxism or precise sleeping time).

Laurent Martinot, Sunrise

What are your predictions for your sector in 2021 and beyond

  • Prediction 1: One in five adults in the US have mild sleep apnea, whilst one in fifteen adults have moderate to severe sleep apnea. This number is expected to increase in the next few years, primarily due to increasing incidences of sleep-related disorders. The other factors anticipated to augment the market is increasing awareness about adverse effects of sleep apnea and technological advancements resulting in the development of novel products for treating sleep apnea. Increasing the awareness and improving the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders necessitates a multi-pronged effort that includes three key components: public education, training for health professionals, and surveillance and monitoring.
  • Prediction 2: The long-term horizon for home-based care in general and home sleep testing in particular, looks more promising than ever. The home-based innovative technology and the digital health platform we have built to deliver simple and reliable solutions for the diagnosis and management of sleep apnea without the patient needing to leave home or be exposed to infection, is ideally positioned to answer the growing need for sleep testing. Increasing use of disposable home sleep apnea tests, adoption of digital platforms, and sleep apnea being recognised as a population health management challenge will be reality in the next few years.

What are your new year’s resolutions?

Our resolutions for 2021 are to continue expanding our presence by opening 3 new markets in the course of next year. This ambitious goal participates in our global plan focused on raising awareness about sleep apnea and giving access to the largest number of validated technologies that are both medical yet simple. It will be important that we all understand that breathing is at the heart of our nights, and continue paying more attention to potential sleep disorders.



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