It’s Sleep Awareness Week, and if social media is any indication, a lot of people aren’t sleeping well these days.
For some, it’s the stress of the pandemic. For others, however, lack of sleep is caused by a physical reason, such as sleep apnea.
Dr. Folu Akinnusi and the team at Ognomy want to put your sleep troubles to bed, and you don’t have to leave home.
Ognomy is an app that can assist doctors in diagnosing and treating your sleep problems online, reducing the time, travel, cost and sometimes frustration of finding a solution.
The traditional way to diagnose a patient requires them to first get an appointment with a specialist. If the doctor decides a sleep test is needed, then the patient will have to set up an appointment at a sleep lab.
“The test, which is called an analog polysomnography, requires the person to be tied up to so many things around the head, the chest, to their finger,” Akinnusi said. “I’m not making this up, there were so many patients who would come back and say, ‘I couldn’t sleep.’ Well, no surprise. When you have all those things going on around you.”
Not only that, Akinnusi continued, patients would toss and turn, causing some cables to become dislodged or the monitor that is supposed to check air flow to move.
“And then you don’t have a satisfactory reading, and the patient has to go back and do it all again,” he said. “I mean, that wasn’t always the case, but it was quite often the case.”
Ognomy changes all that, Akinnusi said.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Ognomy
Credit: Photo courtesy of Ognomy
“We saw the need for a platform where we could try to bring together the fragmented aspects of this service that people with sleep apnea need,” he said.
For Dr. Daniel Rifkin, who trained Akinussi, the idea of streamlining the process had been brewing for more than a decade, Akinnusi said.
Rifkin is CEO and founder of Ognomy, an app for both Apple and Android smartphones. Ognomy comes from the Greek word “physiognomy,” which is the art of diagnosis based on facial expression/structure.
“Every service a sleep apnea patient needs is vertically integrated in a virtual manner with the app,” Akinnusi said.
“Now, a person with sleep apnea does not have to travel. They can sit in their living room, on their couch, wherever they prefer,” he said. “Some patients have used it on the beach. The access to care has been radically changed and made so easy.”
Telemedicine allows the doctors to do the same exam they would do face to face. They have tools that can look at the back of the mouth for an obstruction or diagnose a deviated septum — all while the patient sits on their own couch.
“As soon as we’ve taken the history, I can click a button on the app and schedule a test,” Akinnusi said. That test is sent to the patient’s home.
“You simply wear the test (a few probes and a comfortable belt) for one night and then you send it back to us,” the Ognomy website states. “The study will be reviewed and hand-scored by a sleep technician and then interpreted by your doctor, who will decide the best course of action depending on your results.”
Because the test is done in the patient’s own bed, the results are often more reliable, Akinnusi said.
The app, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and covered by most insurance plans, can also cut the time it takes to get a diagnosis and treatment.
“What used to take three months or more can now be done in no more than two weeks,” Akinnusi said.
That’s important, because lack of sleep contributes to many other health ailments, from obesity to strokes.
The service is currently available only in New York and Georgia, with Akinnusi the lone provider in the Peach State.
After graduating from medical school, Akinnusi trained in England, where he was awarded the U.K.’s highest internal medicine certification, MRCP. He moved to the United State to further his training, with a residency and fellowship in sleep medicine. The doctor lives in Roswell with his wife and son.