Affiliates square off as rivals

Thursday, June 30, 2005

DECATUR, Ala. -- The promising home oximetry testing business got increasingly fractious and competitive this spring as two of the field's pioneering partners head in different, separate directions.
At the heart of the transition is a split between Letco and Birmingham, Mich.-based Oximetry Company IDTF, which recently dissolved its association with the Power Ox system in order to pursue a solitary strategy. Jockeying for competitive advantage in the face of an upcoming CMS transmittal on Medicare in-home oximetry testing is partly responsible for the decision, as well as new competition in the marketplace.
Shortly after securing a customer base of about 2,500 for the Power Ox system, Letco switched to a newer product called Instant Diagnostic System (IDS). President Mickey Letson said the conversion to IDS would be transparent to Power Ox users. Power Ox employs a handheld device to collect, transmit and encrypt in-home patient oximetry data. The IDS operates similarly to PowerOx but with added features, such as data transmission that is concealed from the provider in order to meet the anticipated CMS criteria, Letson said.
The main advantage to the new system, he said, is the ability to send results to any independent diagnostic testing facility the provider chooses. With Power Ox, results were sent exclusively to Oximetry Company IDTF.
Oximetry Company President Bob Rudowski told HME News that his testing facility has continued to gain submissions despite Letco's shift from PowerOx to IDS and that he is "confident" providers will continue sending oximetry data to his lab.
Another factor in Letson's decision to scrap PowerOx was Rudowski's arrangement with Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare to develop a competing system called WebOx. Despite Rudowski's reported insistence that the system would actually boost PowerOx, Letson opted to become the exclusive distributor of the IDS product.
Once the Medicare transmittal is released, Letson said he is confident that his IDS system will be the standard for the industry. Correspondence with CMS officials helped shape the new system, which Letson said is designed to transmit highly encrypted patient data that is shielded from the oximetry provider's view.
Meanwhile, Rudowski maintains that "competition is a good thing -- people should have a choice [of systems], and we believe that people will make a good, discerning choice."
Despite the maneuvering and forthcoming governance of the burgeoning new field, providers remain steadfastly dedicated to it with several IDS users rolling with the punches to adopt the new system.
Rita Schuh, respiratory therapist with Crystal Lake, Ill.-based Remedy Therapeutics, called the product "intuitive, reliable and user friendly." Likewise, the field staff at Middletown, Ohio-based Wren Care has implemented IDS at several of its offices, and president Ric Wren said so far the transition has been smooth. Greensboro, NC-based Advanced Homecare, however, is still ironing out some wrinkles with the system, said Tim Safley, director of respiratory development. HME