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Improving Outcomes by Improving Sleep with Michael Kisch, Founder and CEO Beddr Sleep

Michael Kisch, Founder and CEO Beddr Sleep

Improving Outcomes by Improving Sleep

Helping people understand and solve their sleep problems

Improving Outcomes by Improving Sleep with Michael Kisch, Founder and CEO Beddr Sleep

Improving Outcomes by Improving Sleep with Michael Kisch, Founder and CEO Beddr Sleep

Hey Outcomes Rocket friends, thanks for tuning in to the podcast once again. As a leader in health care, you have big ideas, great products, a story to tell, and are looking for ways to improve your reach and scale your business. However there’s one tiny problem. Health care is tough to navigate and the typical sales cycle is slow. That’s why you should consider starting your own podcast as part of your sales and marketing strategy. At the Outcomes Rocket, I’ve been able to reach thousands of people every single month that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to reach if I had not started my podcast. Having this organic reach enables me to get the feedback necessary to create a podcast that delivers value that you are looking for. And the same thing goes if you start a podcast for what you could learn from your customers. The best thing about podcasting in healthcare is that we are currently at the ground level, meaning that the number of people in healthcare listening to podcasts is small but growing rapidly. I put together a free checklist for you to check out the steps on what it takes to create your own podcast. You could find that at outcomesrocket.health/podcast. Check it out today and find a new way to leverage the sales, marketing and outcomes of your business. That’s outcomesrocket.health/podcast.

Welcome back to the broadcast. Today I have an amazing guest for you. His name is Michael Kisch. He’s a founder and CEO of Better Sleep. Mike likes to make the complex simple engaging and accessible to more people. He’s passionate about applying this philosophy to health care. Previously Mike was the founding CEO of Soundhawk. It’s a wearable hearing enhancement company that developed the first connected hearing device. He led the company from concept to commercialization and multi million dollars in revenue. He is a bright mind in this space and it’s super exciting to be able to connect with you today, Michael. hanks for joining us.

Well thanks for having me on. I’m honored to be here.

Hey so tell me what did I leave out of your intro that you want the listeners to know about you.

Proud father of three. I have three kids: twins and I have a 11 year old daughter as well and that’s sort of the personal information. I’ve spent time on the East Coast. We’ve just talked to you about Midwest and in California in the last 18-19 years and I’ve seen a lot and hope to continue to see more.

That’s awesome man. You’ve trekked the country, you’ve seen the cities sort of the differences and now you’re back in California and you’ve taken a dive into this health care sector even deeper. And so I’m curious what got you into it to begin with?

Sure. So I spent the first 15 years of my career largely in consumer packaged goods. I worked for Kraft Foods outside of Chicago Anheuser-Busch and then I moved on to Cisco Systems where I worked in there sort of emerging technologies group. And so I was part of the team that would incubate lots of new products. And it was everything from connected video cameras to sort of video conferencing systems and one of the things that was consistent across a lot of those products was taking the complexity out of the experience for the user and making things simple accessible and easy for them to use. And about six or seven years ago I had an opportunity to come into the health care space with the company mentioned Soundhawk and you just saw that there were a lot of opportunities to deliver better products, better experiences that were placing the patient really at sort of the center of the experience. So when I looked at the skills and the experiences that I had acquired it just became really logical for me to sort of begin to apply those to healthcare. First on hearing aids and now sort of in the realm of sleep tech which is another area that there’s a lot of very well intentioned people but I think everyone agrees that these products and experiences need to get better if we’re going to deliver improved outcomes at lower cost.

Amen to that brother. So yeah you know like the user interface of healthcare as one of my previous guests mentioned is broken. And so your skills are highly valued here my friend. Talk to us about Beddr. What do you guys do there? And then let’s dive into what you guys at Beddr think a hot topic in medicine is in how you’re addressing it.

Sure. So at the highest level our mission is really to help people understand and solve their sleep problems. So pretty obvious pretty basic but there’s two components of that that I think are critical. The first part is understanding like how do we empower an individual on their own to really get a view into what we spend a third of our life doing because we’re asleep while we’re doing it we really don’t understand what’s going on with our sleep and how good it is, how bad it is and what choices we make are actually having a positive or a negative impact. And what we’ve just brought to market is a product called the sleep tuner which is the small wearable sensor about the size of a stamp the weight of a nickel and you wear it for multiple nights while you sleep. And it tells you some really interesting information about your blood oxygen level. If you’ve stopped breathing, your sleep position, your heart rate in a range of other things. This is the first product along sort of a pathway that we’re going to really give people sort of accurate and affordable and accessible products that help them understand their sleep to a greater degree than they’ve ever been able to in the past on their own. The second thing that we’re building out is just helping someone understand is not a solution. It’s sort of the onboarding an entree if you will to how do we actually direct them to the appropriate treatment path that’s most likely to be able to help them and this is really the second part of what better is doing is we’re building on a way for people to get a formal diagnosis if they have a sleep disorder. But also we’re using data along with the intuition and expertise of sleep physicians to direct people to a therapy path that stands the greatest chance of actually being successful for them. That’s I think in a nutshell the crux of what we’re going to be building and rolling out here over the course of the next six to nine months.

That’s exciting and I don’t remember the statistic but I know it’s pretty high. I think it’s something like 1 in 4 people have sleep apnea or even two out of one out of two.

It’s about 54 million U.S. adults out of 219. So roughly one in four. You were right the first…

One of four. Yeah that’s a lot. And of those a very small percentage are actually diagnosed or even no. So this is pretty cool stuff. Now folks better sounds like Better But it’s actually better Beddr kind of like bed doctor. Pretty cool play on words there. So the device actually goes on the forehead right.

That’s right it goes on the forehead for three reasons one which is not a lot of nerves in your forehead. So you don’t feel it. So one of the things we will do is when people are taking assessments there’s no observer effect, there’s no impotence of their sort of sleep or were disrupting interrupting it or causing it to be worse because of the actual testing sensor. The second reason is for people who have breathing issues when they sleep. One of the biggest determinants is the position of their head which therefore is a proxy for the position of their airway. And so when we sleep on our back gravity works against us and it generally leads to more sensations and really and then when we’re on our side and then the third reason the forehead makes sense is that we get a really good signal for Sp02 or blood oxygen saturation on the forehead. So there was a lot of scientific logic that went into us choosing the forehead as the place where you were the device.

Very cool. Very cool. So folks take a look at this pretty cool. https://www.beddrsleep.com/ you’ll see what we’re talking about here. So as we dive into this Michael tell us a little bit about how you guys see this product improving the lives of those with sleep apnea.

I think there’s a there’s a number of fronts where we already see this making a huge impact. One it’s just about giving people access to sort of accurate information that helps them understand what the risk factors are as it relates to the cause of their sleep issues. So with our product a person can test each night for tens of dollars versus if they have to wait to go into the traditional sleep medicine system just to get it sort of an early indication of something’s wrong. That could be thousands of dollars that could take them up to six months to actually get scheduled. We do it for tens of dollars and people are able to do it within just a couple of days.

It’s pretty amazing man.

Yeah this is I think this is where there’s a huge opportunity and in medicine is if you look at sort of any chronic group of people there’s just some people who are relatively simple to ascertain what’s going on and then to ultimately get them to a diagnosis. And then there’s another group who have much more complex cases and there’s lots of sort of comorbidities and there’s lots of conditions that are interacting in a way that look may need to go through a much much more robust and comprehensive sort of assessment. And we really see ourselves as helping physicians and the overall medical community. Let’s work on the easy there’s more simple to classify people and let’s address them in a simpler more straightforward way so that more resources are being applied to the more complex the difficult to diagnose cases and that’s a way we really see as an opportunity to drive efficiency and the system is put the resources on the hardest cases and then allow technology to really play a more active role with the more straightforward and simple to understand situations.

Fascinating. And you know one of the things that just rises to mind Michael is as we see more digital technologies infiltrating our health space. I think it really becomes the responsibility of providers to stay on top of it because these technologies they definitely are useful and customers are used to interfacing with things that are simple partnerships are great and opportunities to see how how these technologies could better impact workflow are key because if we don’t consider them then they can become very disruptive. Would you agree?

I totally agree I think this is having now been a CEO to digital health companies. I’ve seen it sort of in two different examples. Our perspective is we’re not here to disrupt we’re not here to put somebody out of business or to take revenue from someone else that is just not the objective that drives our view is that there is just a simple or better way to do things for a certain group of people. And I think by being perhaps more narrow in our focus and being clear about what our ambitions are both what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do we’ve actually seen a lot of advocacy from the sleep physician community because they’ve looked at us as well. You’re actually going to help solve the very problems that we’ve been trying to address for a couple of decades and they also understand that there are some boundaries that we’ve put in place. We’re not trying to put a sleep lab or a sleep position out of business. What we’re trying to say is look you know there’s a huge population of people out there that are never going to make it to you that we now will have access to and that we can bring them to you or we can at least give them access to you in a more efficient way that improves things for everybody that allows sleep physicians to be able to impact more people and that allows people to have more ready and easily available in affordable access to true expertise. We see ourselves as kind of that bridge between the individual, the consumer, the healthcare and the expert and we serve both of them. By serving both of them we think we can build a better solution that brings both of them together in a more efficient manner.

Now for sure. Now very eloquently said and think that it goes back to those partnerships right. You guys are not here to disrupt. You guys are here to partner and a lot of people go on diagnosed so I think going the consumer route is a great way to capture that. What would you say the main thing right now that that is going to be what improves outcomes with what you guys do?

So I think there’s two areas that we’re really focused on. One is if we look at this broad population of 54 million people just getting them made aware that they may be at risk and then actually getting them to a formal diagnosis that’s going to improve the outcome for that undiagnosed and tested population. There is absolutely no doubt.

For sure.

I think the second area that is going to become very powerful is how do we harness the data that is being sort of cultivated across our system to assist in what we call sort of patient therapy magic. And so if you look at a condition like apnea there’s four or five different therapy paths that could have a positive impact. What people don’t really understand now is who is going to be best suited to each one of those paths. And there’s an absence of data that exists to be able to do that in a more accurate predictive fashion. One of the cool things that we’ve done by making the sensor both accurate but affordable is a consumer now owns this product so they can test to establish a baseline but they can also test once they’ve started therapy to actually determine what’s the impact of the therapy on the quality of their sleep. And so it’s the ability to bridge that sort of lifecycle of the consumer and the user of this product that is going to drive a much more efficient matching of patient and therapy which should improve what we call compliance and as compliance goes higher outcomes will go higher as well. And so that’s where I think we get really excited passion about what we’re doing. It’s this concept of access and then also driving greater engagement from the user because we know those two will actually contribute to a real significant improvement in outcomes.

That’s awesome man. I think that’s a fantastic idea and the numbers are there. Am excited to see what you guys create.

You just go to our website you can see it it’s right there. We just had our first manufacturing run of product and it’s now getting…


Yeah it was. It’s been an 18 24 month journey but we’re excited where we’re at right now and we were excited we just coming out of beta testing right now and the experience that people have had the reaction to the product has been overwhelmingly positive so we’re we’re ready to give birth so to speak. Greatest product into the world and hopefully help a lot of people that’s really the primary motivation.

Well congratulations on getting to this big milestone man.

Thank you.

That’s huge. So let’s talk about you know you’ve had a lot of different experiences Michael. What would you say one of the biggest setbacks you’ve had and what did you learn from that?

Sure. Great question. So my first CEO role I was a CEO of Sundhawk which did some really interesting cutting edge stuff. So the whole basis of Soundhawk you would allow people to self fit a hearing assistance device versus have to go in for a hearing test and then sort of a battery of acoustic fittings and so killer person could simply place their finger on a smartphone screen and as they move that around it would actually change to sort of achieve a setting where they could hear things more clearly.

That’s pretty cool.

You could also change a dynamically based upon the environment that you were in. And so you know it was the classic example of you’re building a better mousetrap and you sort of expect the better mousetrap is going to lead to business success and ultimately it didn’t. And when I look at why we did a very poor job at that company of understanding where we need to be different and where we need to be the same as sort of the status quo. And I’ll give you an example.


We wanted to be different from a regulatory perspective that we want him to be classified differently therefore we will have the ability to make different claims. We want to have a different go to market. We wanted to have a different across a range of things and it was so different that it just was difficult for people to fully assess understand. And that really sort of extended the time period that we had to build trust and credibility and ultimately build up a successful sales pipeline. And so when I look at it in retrospect it was very clear that you need to be different in certain areas and in other areas you just need to sort of look very similar to the way things are and that’s very much inform the approach that we’ve taken at Beddr where look the product is different the delivery model is different, the pricing model is very different. But the things that are the same are that the data we gather and the accuracy of that data is absolutely consistent with what a board certified sleep position has been comfortable with for the last decade or two. So that was I think the big insight from the Soundhawk experience is definitely be different in certain areas but don’t go against the workflow don’t try to convince people in certain areas where they have just grown really accustomed to the way things have been and they’re comfortable with that. And I think that nuance is one that a lot of people when they first come into health care they don’t understand. They just take the classic sort of disruptive mentality where it’s like well we need to be different whatever they’ve done before we’ll just be different. Yeah applying a lot of intelligence and sophistication and said that and I think you know I encourage people just really know yourself and know the market and know who your partners are going to be and know who you’re going to be building relationships with and then factor that into how you think about your product you will go to market your overall business model.

Michael I think that’s tremendously insightful and being different for the sake of different isn’t going to get you there. So take a step back and think through that. I think his words of wisdom that I think everybody needs to take the heart. Definitely appreciate you sharing that Michael straight from the trenches. It’s so valuable.

Happy to do so.

So what would you say the other side of the coin. One of your proudest and just awesome leadership experiences in healthcare that you’ve had to date?

I think it’s I’ve been at the head of building to digital health companies completely from scratch into areas that are not meaningful but they’re not the highest profile perhaps buzziest areas of medicine one being hearing loss and the other being apnea. But these are two conditions that dramatically impair a person’s quality of life both in the near term as well as the long term. And I think in both situations we’ve been able to bring you know a much better experience to the consumer and we’ve enabled them to both understand more about what’s going on but we’ve also given them a lot more control over their lives and their ability to sort of manage these conditions and I think that’s what I’m most proud about is you know we’re empowering people to live a better life. And that’s sort of the mission that drives us both here. But it was also the mission that drove us previously at Soundhawk.

That’s great man. And sleep is so important and I think the education piece will definitely be huge for those of us without apnea. And for those with apnea I think it’s so key to understand the value of sleep. The days of being sleep deprived and wearing that as a badge of honor I think are starting to go away. There may be some pockets of it still but I think what you and your team are doing to get that education out there is pretty huge.

Yeah it’s interesting. Definitely the mentality towards getting the right amount of sleep. You see this with thought leaders like Arianna Huffington at Thrive Global these people who are proudly saying that you know I need to get my seven eight hours of sleep per night because it makes me a better person. It makes me a better leader. I think it’s exciting and I think it’s sort of you know it’s a wind in our sails basically anybody who’s in the sort of sleep business right now. And I think when we look specifically at breathing issues when we sleep I think it’s people are really starting to come to recognition that this impacts a much broader population of people and that it’s these breathing disruptions that actually oftentimes are contributing to insomnia but they’re also sort of accelerants to a range of other chronic conditions that people may have from type 2 diabetes hypertension to mental health issues and I think what we’ve been really excited about is just the since we’ve seen from the broader health care community because they see us doing something that certainly helps our particular group of customers in our business. They see the application to support the digital therapies that they have or the employer programs that where we’re now. And that’s great that just means we’re doing the right things and we’re working on things that have a broader impact perhaps in ways that even we can’t anticipate this point.

That’s outstanding. So I know that Beddr is about to have its official debut. That’s an exciting project. Is there anything within what you’re doing now. That’s a very exciting project our focus that you’re very very drilled into?

There is. So. When we thought about how we were going to roll out the business and specifically the product the wearable sensor that we call the sleep tuner was the first thing we needed to focus on because we needed a way to gather clinically valid accurate information. So the sleep tuner is designed to do that. Now what we’re focused on is what do we do with that data not only what do we do for the individual but more about that community and how is this information going to be anonymized, aggregated, analyzed and then delivered back in a meaningful way to both the consumer but also to the clinician. And so this is really the next phase of the company that we’re really focused on right now as we begin to see data flowing through the system. It’s amazing what you can learn. It’s amazing how much of an impact just simple choices like having two drinks within a couple hours of going to bed or when we have colds and allergies the impact that these things are having on our sleep quality. And now the ability to quantify that and then provide back to the individual thoughtful and actionable recommendations for things that they can do on their own that we know there’s a very high likelihood that it’s going to improve their sleep.

Man, that’s exciting as that data piece you know that data piece is what differentiates.

We knew when we started the company that the sort of future of sleep medicine was going to be driven by data science. And what was required was how can you cost effectively gather that information at a scale that’s never been done before in the past. And so you know right now there’s really kind of two models. One is the classic overnight sleep test which is an incredibly accurate comprehensive test. But you’ll only have a chance to do it once in an environment that is not your home.


And then on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got consumer sleep trackers which are not validated or are approved by the FDA and they don’t gather the information that is considered gold standard. So they may have billions of nights of data. It’s just the wrong data of probably questionable accuracy. So in the middle is this really fascinating opportunity that we’ve been driving towards which is can we gather the most important information that you would get from an overnight sleep test but over multiple nights in a very cost effective scalable way and even now when we see the data flow through the system you’re seeing all these relationships that have been hinted at in sort of peer reviewed research but have never been sort of they never reached a degree of being considered conclusive. And I think we’re going to be a huge agent in really helping drive greater understanding of these issues and the data we’re gathering.

Love it. That’s so awesome specially the patient level and then also the science level and the things that you guys are going to be able to contribute. That’s awesome man. Congratulations.

Thank you.

So getting close to the end here Michael. Let’s pretend. You and I are building a leadership course and what it takes to be successful in the business of healthcare the 101 of a Michael Kisch. So I’ve got four questions for you. Lightning round style followed by a book that you recommend to the listeners. You ready?


What’s the best way to improve healthcare outcomes.

Engage the patient as an active instead of a passive participant.

What’s the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

Don’t avoid or go around the FDA or physician experts engage with them. Doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. But a robust give and take will make a better product and a better business.

Love that. How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?

Always stay focused on doing a better job of solving the customer’s problem.

What is one area of focus that drives everything in your organization?

We are all about empowering our customers to understand and more importantly solve their sleep problems.

Love that and would you say the book you recommend to the listeners as part of the syllabus?

Can I give you three or do I have to give you one?

Give us three man.

All right so here’s here’s three books sort of three various points my sort of journey. So the first one is by Clayton Christiansen. That’s a different type of Clayton Christiansen book it’s called How Will You Measure Your Life. I won’t go into it in great detail but it was a book I read it sort of critical fork in the road as it related to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And I found it deeply informative, inspirational and it gave me the confidence to sort of continue on the digital health path when maybe I was questioning if that was the right path to be on. Second one is the Undoing project by Michael Lewis. So if anybody has an interest in the way that people human beings make decisions both for right and for wrong this to me is the most accessible book that you’ll ever read about. Two Israeli psychologists one named Amos to be risky. One named Danny caught a man who basically did all the seminal work on heuristics and judgment and decision making. That’s really a fascinating read and Lewis does a great job of taking the academic and making it accessible by the third one which I just finished reading on vacation with my family is David versus Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Yes I really like this book because I’ve been in startups now for the last 6-8 years and most of the time people think you’re insane. Like how can you go challenge the incumbent. It’s like this is a great book where you realize that there’s actually significant disadvantages to being the giant with a particular category and that if you understand that as a startup there is some paths you can choose that really increase your rate of success.

Great recommendations Michael. Love that last one. One that I’ve definitely read and I think is so good. The other two haven’t. So adding those to the list appreciate you highlighting these reads as well as the syllabus overview. Listeners you could find all of that at outcomesrocket.health/beddr and you’ll find the transcript of our conversation. Links to those books links to the company. You wanna get yourself one of these devices or sign up before early release. You can do that there. Michael this has been fun man.

Saul thanks for having me on. I really enjoyed it.

Absolutely. Now before we go though I love if you could just share a closing thought. And then the best place for the listeners could get in touch with or follow you.

Closing thought. Well here is my closing thought. I think that we’re about to enter a phase here where we’re going to really see a rather radical acceleration change in the healthcare landscape and I’m assuming most of your listeners. They’ve been in health care for an extended period of time. They’ve heard that change is coming and they’ve wondered Is that truly going to happen. Or is the status quo going to continue to prevail. My sense now is that we are about to witness significant change and that there is new entrants there’s new companies that are bringing even more force for change. I’m incredibly excited about that I think anybody who’s sort of been in the health care space should be incredibly excited about that because I think a lot of the stuff that’s frustrated us we’re going to begin to see some really positive movement forward as as more people really come together to solve some of these big problems.

Love that Michael. And would you say the best place for listeners to get in touch or follow you is.

I’m on Twitter. So it’s surfski.. The two things I use to do lots of I do not do as much.

Before you’re a healthcare CEO.

You got it. And before I had three kids those two things occupy most of my time. Also feel free to just reach out and connect on LinkedIn or you know come to our website sign up for a newsletter we generate lots and lots of real relevant content related to sleep. So whether you have apnea or not we will certainly try to educate you about sleep problems and the impact of sleep on your overall health and well-being.

Outstanding. Hey sleep is so important to me, Mike. And I know for the rest of the listeners so keep up the amazing work that you’re up to man. And thanks for carving out time for us.

Thanks, Saul. Appreciate it.

Hey Outcomes Rocket friends, thanks for tuning in to the podcast once again. As a leader in health care, you have big ideas, great products, a story to tell, and are looking for ways to improve your reach and scale your business. However there’s one tiny problem. Health care is tough to navigate and the typical sales cycle is slow. That’s why you should consider starting your own podcast as part of your sales and marketing strategy. At the Outcomes Rocket, I’ve been able to reach thousands of people every single month that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to reach if I had not started my podcast. Having this organic reach enables me to get the feedback necessary to create a podcast that delivers value that you are looking for. And the same thing goes if you start a podcast for what you could learn from your customers. The best thing about podcasting in healthcare is that we are currently at the ground level, meaning that the number of people in healthcare listening to podcasts is small but growing rapidly. I put together a free checklist for you to check out the steps on what it takes to create your own podcast. You could find that at outcomesrocket.health/podcast. Check it out today and find a new way to leverage the sales, marketing and outcomes of your business. That’s outcomesrocket.health/podcast.

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