SomnoMed Ltd has commenced executing its business plan to make dentists an integral part of diagnosing obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and snoring-related problems using a multifaceted approach that includes educating clinicians, raising public awareness and the manufacture of a mandibular advancement splint (MAS) that can be prescribed to treat the majority of problems.
"We have commenced operations on all levels including a test campaign on television, on radio, on the sides of buses and in print to raise awareness that there is now a patient friendly way to treat snoring and OSA readily available," said Mr John Truitt, Chief Marketing Officer at SomnoMed.
"Obstructive sleep apnoea affects 24% of men and 9% of women and snoring 44% and 28% respectively. The principal aim of our organisation is to assist sufferers to obtain relief by effectively providing a turnkey solution that raises awareness, diagnoses the problem and delivers options for treatment.
"The device we manufacture will provide relief in around 95% of cases and because an impression must be taken to manufacture it, the dentist is best placed to be at the frontline."
Following its successful float on the Australian Stock Exchange in August where $12 million in capital was raised, SomnoMed Ltd (ASX:SOM) has moved into a new purpose-built facility occupying the entire floor of an office block in the Sydney suburb of Crows Nest. The facility includes corporate offices, a call centre and a fully equipped dental laboratory specifically designed to manufacture the SomnoMed MAS.
"To date, we have run a number of courses for dentists and the vast majority complete the programme with a commitment to introduce this valuable service into their practice. There is a great potential for dentists to play a new role in the community that is currently only being addressed on an ad hoc basis," Mr Truitt said.
The SomnoMed MAS is already being prescribed to patients by a number of dentists who attended the initial courses. Patients attend for a 30-45 minute appointment where their suitability for the splint is gauged by the dentist using questionnaires supplied by SomnoMed and techniques learnt in the course. If the SomnoMed MAS is indicated, an impression is taken and sent to the company to produce the custom splint. In cases where the dentist believes the patient has severe OSA, a system of referral is in place where the patient can be sent on to a sleep physician for more intensive assessment.
Once the splint has been received back at the practice, fitting of the device is completed in a 10-15 minute appointment. The typical cost to the patient is between $1200 - $1500 and is set by the individual practice. The SomnoMed MAS itself is $490 (GST is not applicable on the device).
"The SomnoMed MAS is a patented, medically validated device that delivers relief to the majority of people who snore or have mild OSA," Mr Truitt said. "We also then have a whole referral network of medical GPs, sleep physicians and Ear Nose and Throat specialists in place for more severe cases.
"It is a true interdisciplinary network and the advantage for the dentist is that they are the only ones who can fit the device. If any other practitioner in the network sees a patient who they believe needs the SomnoMed MAS, then that patient is referred to the nearest dentist in the network."
Mr Truitt said that the setup of this network was facilitated by the highly qualified Medical Advisory Board at SomnoMed who have worked in sleep medicine for many years and developed the processes for assessment and treatment currently being implemented by the company.
"Our whole focus is helping dentists to profitably incorporate sleep medicine into their practices. It is our only business and our only focus. Our manufacturing lab is setup just to make the device to careful specifications and with exacting quality control. Our technicians are all registered and fully trained in producing the device and that is all they do all day. We will deliver a high quality product to specification on time because that is our business."
SomnoMed is continuing its program of courses for dentists who want to incorporate sleep medicine into their practices. In the half day program, participants will learn from a specialist sleep physician how to differentiate between snoring patients with a low likelihood of OSA and a high likelihood OSA.
A dentist experienced in prescribing Mandibular Advancement Splints then presents on how to successfully incorporate this into your practice including treatment consent guidelines, the mechanics of the appointment, recall periods and other issues.
Finally, SomnoMed representatives detail the logistics of ordering the device together with an overview of the public awareness campaign and referral system.
A comprehensive kit containing marketing brochures and information, patient questionnaires, diagnosis & chair-side checklists, treatment consent forms and more is provided for all participants at the courses.
Mr Truitt said that an initial test marketing campaign was underway to gauge the response from various types of promotions. Adverts had so far appeared on the sides of buses in Sydney and Melbourne, on radio stations 2CH and WS-FM in Sydney, daytime TV on the Seven Network and in the Melbourne Age newspaper.
"We are testing the water and seeing the response we get from various activities," he said. "We have a call centre that takes calls from the public, screens the caller's suitability for treatment, then refers them to a dentist or doctor in the network for consultation."
Mr Truitt said that SomnoMed would continue to actively promote its services to the public and part of this included partnering with dentists to undertake cooperative marketing campaigns.
"Dentists will receive referrals of new patients from our public awareness campaigns and they should also screen their existing patient base and inform them of this new service. In addition, there is also an opportunity for us both to cooperatively market in the dental practice's local area to create further interest."