SECTIONS - Strategic Solutions Series
June 20, 2016

Vodafone-Connected 3B Medical Solution Helps Patients Rest Easy

Sleep is an essential component of life. Yet at least 40 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, and around 70 percent of adults have some kind of sleep problem, according to the National Sleep Foundation. That can adversely affect their personal health and wellbeing, and can even lead to traffic accidents.

3B Medical Inc. is working to address all that with its sleep therapy solutions.

Sleep apnea and oxygen are the two areas on which the Winter Haven, Fla.-based company is focused, and it has selected Vodafone to provide the 4G LTE global connectivity for its services.

People with sleep apnea either stop breathing momentarily or breathe shallowly while they sleep. That impedes their quality of rest because it moves them out of a deep sleep. Using a continuous positive airway pressure machine can help normalize breathing by blowing air to open up a person’s airway. But getting comfortable with using these devices is a challenge for many patients, and in some cases can lead people to abandon use of their machines entirely, says Alex Lucio, executive vice president of 3B Medical.

“It’s a strange sensation, but it’s one your body will adjust to,” Lucio says. “If there’s no patient hand holding in the first couple of days, you’ll probably lose the patient.”

That’s a real problem given that studies show that patients who don’t use their machines in the first seven days typically don’t use them in the future, says Lucio. It’s also problematic, he says, because the U.S. Medicare reimbursement rule for this treatment requires patients to use these devices for at least 70 percent of the nights in their first 90 days of having the machines.

So 3B Medical introduced a HIPPA-compliant cloud portal called iCodeConnect that allows data to be collected from modules attached to sleep apnea machines, and that data can be shared with authorized medical personnel to help with compliance. The 3B Medical module initially had only Wi-Fi connectivity, but now (with the addition of a Vodafone SIM) it also has the ability to connect via Vodafone’s global LTE mobile cellular network.

That’s helpful for the patient, the physician, and the durable medical equipment providers that sell the CPAP machines.

The addition of cellular is important because, unlike Wi-Fi, it doesn’t require the patient to do anything to enable connectivity, and it opens the door to new kinds of services, Lucio explains.

Cellular also provides sleep physicians with real-time information on their patients’ progress, and provides physicians and durable medical equipment providers with the opportunity to identify and help support patients who are at risk of non-compliance.

“The projects that we are currently working on and are in active development on include using SMS messaging to the coach the patient,” Lucio explains. “For example, if the sleep data indicates that the patient use is compliant and the therapy is efficacious, our patient management portal, iCodeConnect, will soon be able to identify the compliant patient and send an SMS message to the bedside CPAP machine to display on the LCD a positive message. Likewise, if the sleep data is worrisome, a message indicating that improvement is needed could be sent.”

3B Medical also plans on using the cellular connection to update CPAP machine software for routine updates or software patches, and to allow physicians to make prescription changes from remote locations. For example, cellular connectivity could allow a doctor to change the pressure settings on a CPAP device and see how a patient responds to the new settings.

Vodafone was 3B Medical’s choice to provide cellular connectivity because of its strong focus on machine-to-machine technology, its broad coverage, the flexibility of its M2M portal for SIM management, and the ease of integration of SIM management into 3B Medical’s patient management portal with a robust API, Lucio says.

“While 3B has had Wi-Fi on the market, our agreement with Vodafone opens a lot of possibilities,” Lucio adds. “Their M2M coverage map is extensive, based on their carrier contracts for no-cost roaming. Their coverage allows devices to cross international borders and continue uploading at no additional expense.”

Vodafone’s global coverage is important, particularly for patients who travel in the U.S. and abroad.

3B Medical plans to embrace the Internet of Things and cellular connectivity on an even greater scale going forward by connecting all its medical devices to the cloud.

“Our FDA pipeline includes a Home Sleep Test device, which will allow a patient to get diagnosed from their home. The HST device will eventually also upload data into the cloud,” Lucio says. “Within the next year we will be working on finding ways of tying in all of our devices into iCodeConnect, including the HST, O2, and CPAP. Clinicians and physicians will have timely data on patient compliance, and DME providers will have immediate information needed for billing and for monitoring and servicing patients.” 

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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