The epidemic of poor sleep: how hospitals and mobile health will help

Hospitals’ core business may be in inpatient beds, but there’s another bed they’ve begun to target: the one you regularly sleep in at home.

Sleeplessness costs the U.S. $63.2 billion each year in lost productivity. On a per-capita basis, insomnia costs the average American worker 11.3 days, or $2,280, in lost productivity annually, according to Harvard’s American Insomnia Study.

Meridian Health System, an integrated health delivery system based on the New Jersey shore, is partnering with T-Mobile and iMPak Health to co-develop and -brand a sleep program. This is a sign that hospitals, always a community health resource, are getting even more involved in their communities’ everyday lives to improve whole health and quality of life.

Meridian has offered services for the sleep-deprived health citizens of New Jersey for some time through its Sleep Centers at the system’s five major medical centers, all staffed by board-certified clinical sleep experts.

This venture brings together 3 components in the health ecosystem: a major health provider; a technology company, iMPak Health, which offers a SleepTrak monitoring portfolio and hails from Sweden’s Cypak, a chip manufacturer; and, T-Mobile, which will leverage its nationwide 4G network along with Nokia Astound devices in conjunction with the SleepTrak device.

Communication will be based on NFC, which uses radio frequency identification (RFID). This is the comms standard already used for payments via mobile phones. It is useful in health applications such as sleep monitoring due to its ability to wirelessly and simply collect data while connecting with patients, regardless of their location.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The venture between Meridian, T-Mobile, and iMPak is notable in several ways: first, it’s unique for a health care provider to ally with technology companies. This is a competency that doesn’t come naturally to a typical hospital. But Meridian isn’t typical: the system has a job title called “Director – Consumer Technology and Service Development,” filled by Sandra Elliott. Sandra sat on a panel I chaired at the recent ePatient Connections 2011 conference on “360-degrees of Connected Health” where she shared Meridian’s big picture view on consumer-facing health and technology to improve health and quality of life. She’s helping her health system innovate and pioneer connected health technologies that benefit peoples’ lives, improve public health in the system’s target markets, and save costs to the health system.

Second, the venture puts a hospital system into the arena of whole health and retail health. Don’t file this story in your “hospitals” folder on your hard drive; put this in your “retail health” file. The SleepTrak card is available for purchase on for under $30.

Finally, the alliance brings together organizations who hail from different parts of the world: T-Mobile is part of Deutsche Telekom, the Germany telecomms company; iMPak is Swedish; Nokia’s roots are in Finland; and, Meridian is based squarely in Bruce Springsteen’s birthplace on the Jersey Shore. Health is global, health care is local.

It takes a village, perhaps a globe, to innovate health and health care.


About Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn is a health economist, advisor and trend-weaver to organizations at the intersection of health, technology and people. Jane founded THINK-Health after spending a decade as a health care consultant in firms in the U.S. and Europe. Jane’s clients are all stakeholders in health, including technology, bio/life sciences, providers, plans, financial services, consumer products, public sector and not-for-profit organizations. Jane founded the Health Populi blog in 2007, covering health policy, technology, and consumers.

One Response to The epidemic of poor sleep: how hospitals and mobile health will help

  1. Paul Sonnier October 8, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    Love your concluding comment, Jane!

    “It takes a village, perhaps a globe, to innovate health and health care.”

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