Highmark Inc., one of the largest health insurers in the country, has announced plans to open a retail store dedicated to helping people get a better night’s sleep.
Highmark is the fourth-largest company affiliated with insurance giant Blue Cross and Blue Shield. It operates plans in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia that serve a total of over 5 million members. The company provides health insurance, dental, insurance, and vision care, and the new sleep store — to be called REMWorks — is the first bricks and mortar retail location that it will operate, though the company does also run a retail store that sells vision and eyewear products. It is slated to open this coming December at a popular shopping location called The Waterfront, located in Homestead, Pennsylvania. The store will provide customers with solutions and products specifically designed to assist with the problems of insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring and sleeplessness.
According to Amy Phillips, director of REMWorks Sleep Store, “Having trouble sleeping is something that, unfortunately, most people will face at some point in their lives. But fortunately, with this new store, we have the opportunity to provide guidance to assist people in getting a good night’s sleep. Our highly trained, licensed sleep coaches will work with people to understand why they’re having trouble sleeping and develop a plan so they can get better sleep.”
Phillips explained that, “REMWorks Sleep Store is not a mattress store and it is not a sleep lab. Rather, it is a sleep store unlike anything that’s currently in the market. In a relaxing, comfortable retail environment, REMWorks will offer products to address various sleep problems and provide education about treatment options to help people get the sleep they need.”
The store is designed to help people facing all types of sleep problems and at all stages of diagnosis. People who have already undergone sleep testing and have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea can come to REMWorks Sleep Store to examine a variety of different types of CPAP devices and to be fit for sleep masks to help them find on that is most comfortable. The store will have items from a variety of manufacturers. The store will also be available to those who have already purchased CPAP equipment but who are concerned about whether it is properly fitted to their face. The goal is maximum effectiveness in the treatment of every sleep problem, so even though the store is owned and operated by an insurance company it will accept other health insurance payments, including both local and national insurers, for clinical services and products that they offer.
In addition to highly specialized clinical equipment like CPAP machines, REMWorks will also be selling a variety of over-the-counter sleep aids, including an assortment of sleep masks, music and CDs that are designed to help people fall asleep, high tech lights designed to aid in drowsiness, and even teas and aromatherapy solutions. The store will sell bedding, special pillows, sleep monitors and white noise machines; it will also have a variety of solutions to help parents get their children to sleep.
Beyond the items that will be available for purchase, REMWorks will be staffed by highly trained sleep coaches, who will offer to help people to create individualized sleep plans. They will assist in offering sleep hygiene solutions, educating their clients about what may be preventing them from getting the sleep that they need and how to counter the impact of stress and social obligations in order to make sleep a priority. The store will also be able to advise on the treatment of several non-medical conditions that might be interfering with customers’ ability to sleep, including such issues as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep terrors and nightmares, teeth grinding and circadian rhythm disorders.
The store is the brainchild of Highmark’s Business Innovation and Development department. Tasked with identifying growth opportunities, the group is responsible for the development of innovative services and products that take Highmark and its image beyond that of the traditional insurance company. According to Paul Puopolo, Highmark vice president of business innovation and development, “We saw a market demand that was not being met, and that’s what led to the development of the sleep store concept. Through collaboration and relationship building, we are able to develop unique concepts that bring value to Highmark and, most importantly, our customers. The lack of a good night’s sleep does not just affect your mood and productivity. It can also contribute to serious health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and depression. That’s why having a store like this is so important – and why the opening of REMWorks Sleep Store is a proud milestone for our department and the entire company.”
The opening of the store by a respected health insurer speaks volumes about the rising awareness of the high cost that sleeplessness and sleep disorders are having on American society. Called a public health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep insufficiency has been associated with everything from medical and occupational mistakes to horrific motor vehicle crashes and industrial accidents. Not only does falling asleep unintentionally constitute a danger, but sleep deprivation can contribute to serious medical issues and chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, depression, obesity and diabetes. It has also been blamed for extremely expensive losses in productivity that climb into the billions of dollars per year as employees either call out sick from work due to sleeplessness or miss work due to health issues caused by their lack of sleep.
The CDC has urged collaboration between physicians, employers and health care advocates to try to encourage people to get more sleep and to make it a higher priority. Highmark’s move into the retail aspects of sleep mark the arrival of a proactive approach being taken by a major American insurer.