Costs dampen POC use

Thursday, June 9, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine – Repair and battery costs are standing between many HME providers and portable oxygen concentrators (POCs), according to the results of a recent HME NewsPoll. 

"We use [POCs] strictly for our travel oxygen component," said Jim Parten, home medical director for Branson, Mo.-based Lakeland Pharmacy. "We have found portable concentrators to be very unreliable."

Eighty-seven percent of the 116 respondents to the poll reported that they provide more stationary concentrators than POCs. Seventy percent of respondents reported that only 0% to 5% of the concentrators they provide are POCs.

In addition to repair and battery costs, the higher acquisition cost of POCs vs. stationary oxygen concentrators gives providers pause. All of these reasons make them a losing proposition for Don Jones of Southern Home Medical in Cullman, Ala.

"The concept is great—to keep patients on the go," he said. "(However), we've had very few requests, simply because it is cost prohibitive in a Medicare-driven environment. The battery costs are not covered, and everyone has inquired about extra batteries only to be shocked at the out-of-pocket costs." 

Still, POCs have their believers. Like Parten said, they’re good for traveling patients, and they help reduce delivery costs for providers.

"At first look, POCs are a scary proposition," said James Shurlow, director of HME Services at University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers. "The sticker shock is significant. But when we really looked at the numbers, the payback is significant to the degree that including POCs for select patients becomes a 'no brainer.'"

And then there’s this: 55% of respondents reported that the number of POCs they provide has increased in the last year.

“Portable oxygen concentrators have been of much benefit to those customers who are very active,” said Pat Northeimer, the clinical director at Cole Care in Coudersport, Pa. “It promotes their independence. A happy customer will be a return customer and recommend our company to their friends and relatives. We like that.”