By Scott Scanlon from The Buffalo News – July 31, 2020
Dr. Daniel Rifkin was completing a master’s degree in public health several years ago when he began to wonder if telehealth could help those with obstructive sleep apnea.
“It got me thinking more and more about creating something where patients don’t have to come to a sleep center,” he said. “Instead, the sleep center comes to them.”
Rifkin, who founded Sleep Medicine Centers of Western New York in 2002, said the app will allow himself and five other providers in the practice to examine patients by computer or smartphone, ship them sleep study equipment if necessary and arrange treatment if the study confirms sleep apnea.
The approach will save time for patients, he said. It will be covered through most health insurance, and cost less than a clinical sleep study for those with high-deductible plans.
Sleep Medicine Centers has six locations across the region that serve more than 2,000 adults and children with problems that also include insomnia, restless legs syndrome and sudden daytime sleeping, though sleep apnea is more common by far.
It affects more than 25 million Americans, 80% of whom don’t know what makes them so tired during the day, even after what they believed was a full night of slumber.
Instead, muscles in the throat relax and close during sleep. The body subconsciously awakens – sometimes hundreds of times a night – as it tries to restore normal breathing. Left untreated, it raises the risk for heart attack, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, liver problems and mishaps due to drowsiness.
“Treating sleep apnea is just as important as addressing other medical conditions,” said Rifkin, a Williamsville native who graduated from medical school at Dartmouth University, and trained in sleep medicine as a fellow at the University of Michigan before returning home. He is also a clinical assistant professor of neurology in the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
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