Beyond Snores: The Untold Risks of Unchecked Sleep Apnea

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

In a candid interview with Heiko Butz, the CEO of Diametos, we delve into the innovative world of Snorefox, their certified medical app designed to revolutionize sleep health. Heike sheds light on the inspiration behind Snorefox and its potential to address the often undiagnosed sleep apnea issue through convenient at-home screenings. With a focus on leveraging smartphone technology and acoustic signal analysis, Snorefox aims to empower individuals to take control of their sleep health and seek timely medical intervention when needed.

Heiko Butz shares the personal motivation behind founding Diametos, emphasizing the need for a reliable solution for assessing the potential dangers of snoring. As someone who experienced uncertainty surrounding her own snoring, Heiko's journey, along with co-founder Dr. Christoph Janott, led to the creation of Snorefox, offering a transformative approach to identifying sleep apnea risks.

How would you explain your solution in three sentences to a professional colleague from the health sector?

"Our Snorefox app, which is certified as a medical device, enables risk screening for the often undiagnosed sleep apnea at home in your own sleeping environment. Snorefox analyzes the acoustic signals of snoring and breathing noises via the smartphone microphone without any additional hardware. If a risk is detected, Snorefox recommends a visit to a specialist, with direct support from the integrated doctor finder."

What problem motivated you to start the company?

"I snore myself and for many years I lived in uncertainty as to whether my snoring was dangerous. I lacked a reliable and simple solution to get to the bottom of the matter. This gave rise to the idea for Snorefox together with my co-founder Dr. Christoph Janott, an acoustics engineer who has spent 10 years researching the topic of snoring. Now anyone can determine the risk of sleep apnea at home using their own cell phone. This hidden widespread disease is unrecognized in around 80% of cases and is therefore often not treated, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease many times over and causes personal suffering and high costs for the healthcare system."

How do you convince a pharmaceutical company, a health insurance company or another potential client to set up a pilot project with you?

"Our Snorefox app enables broad-based risk screening for sleep apnea. It affects around one in three people over the age of 30, but in 80% of cases the condition remains undetected. Efficient screening not only enables early intervention to reduce the risk of far-reaching and cost-intensive secondary diseases, but also refers the right insured persons to the appropriate medical professionals at the right time, thus minimizing the medical bottleneck. 
Our solution is particularly relevant in the context of high blood pressure, with over 22 million people affected and healthcare costs of over 6 billion euros per year. Around 50% of high blood pressure patients suffer from sleep apnea. By identifying the underlying condition, Snorefox helps to initiate cause-based treatment at an early stage. This reduces the high probability of serious secondary diseases such as strokes and heart attacks, resulting in considerable savings in healthcare expenditure. 
Overall, Snorefox enables payers to manage the care pathway more efficiently and make optimal use of resources. As a result, the application makes a measurable contribution to reducing costs in the healthcare system and at the same time offers sustainable added value for insured persons and patients."

Who are your current customer (groups) and who do you want your potential customers to be?

"We are currently focusing directly on people who snore or suspect they have sleep apnoea, for example because they feel tired during the day, suffer from high blood pressure or their partner suspects that they are not breathing. Health insurance companies and occupational health management are also important cooperation partners. The Snorefox app is currently available in Germany and Austria. Our expansion plans are aimed at the USA and other European countries in order to make our sleep apnoea risk screening accessible to a larger user group."

Where do you see yourself in 3 years and how can 5-HT support you?

"We see ourselves in a comprehensive partnership with health insurance companies that integrate Snorefox into their scope of services. By reducing secondary illnesses, this not only leads to cost savings, but also has a positive impact on patients' quality of life, job security and reduced absenteeism. We see 5-HT as a key supporter in networking with relevant contacts at health insurance companies and in occupational health management."

You participated in the Insuring Digital Health in October 2023. What is your impression of the event and what have you gained (so far) from participating?

"Participating in the Insuring Digital Health event was extremely exciting and promising for us. In intensive and in-depth discussions, we had the opportunity to present our Snorefox app to leading health insurance companies and discuss potential collaborations. We gained valuable insights into the needs of health insurance companies and the challenges of the healthcare sector. Follow-ups with the health insurers are already underway and we are optimistic about potential collaborations. The event not only provided us with valuable insights, but also opened up promising perspectives - thank you for this great opportunity!"

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