Dr. Joe Krainin opened a new Mount Pleasant office for patients with sleep disorders last month, except there is no office, not strictly speaking.
Krainin is riding the wave of telemedicine, an evolving technology already up-and-running across South Carolina that allows doctors to consult with patients remotely via computer.
Krainin meets with his patients, evaluates their sleep habits and even prescribes medications without ever stepping into an exam room with them.
Typically, telemedicine provides high-risk patients in rural areas access to specialists at top hospitals, including Medical University Hospital. State lawmakers have invested millions of dollars since 2013 to expand the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, which has proven especially useful for women with complicated pregnancies and stroke victims.
“Telehealth has moved into the mainstream,” the American Hospital Association explained in an article on its website earlier this year. “In 2013, 52 percent of hospitals utilized telehealth, and another 10 percent were beginning the process of implementing telehealth services.”
But Krainin is using telemedicine a little differently than hospitals are using it. His new private practice, called Singular Sleep, caters to patients who can afford to pay cash for his services. Krainin decided to cut out health insurance companies completely.
“What I was seeing in my traditional practice was people weren’t getting the care that they needed,” said Krainin, formerly the director of a large sleep center in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“First, the insurance companies have specific algorithms that they want to plug every patient and every doctor into and really dictate what you can do,” he said. “What I was seeing was that people would come into the clinic and have a terrible sleeping disorder and I’d recommend a sleep study and I’d plead with them but they simply couldn’t do it.”
An in-lab sleep study can cost patients $2,000, he said.
Krainin charges his Singular Sleep patients $69 for a 20-minute telemedicine consultation and $250 for a home sleep study. He think the in-home sleep study is as equally effective as the in-lab sleep study.
“It is far more cost effective to run a telemedicine practice than a brick and mortar practice,” he said. “It enables us to pass those savings on to our patients.”
Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.