Cutting overhead drives innovation in oxygen market

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Oxygen technology continues to make strides, from remote monitoring connectivity to product engineering that bolsters efficiency, durability and longevity. And while new product designs ultimately benefit the patient, they are also geared toward saving providers money in a hardscrabble reimbursement climate, manufacturers say.

“The goal of technological innovation is to drive better outcomes and lower costs across the board more efficiently,” said Biola Okunola, global marketing manager, respiratory, for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare. “Today’s technological innovations are directed at making the use of oxygen and compliance easier for patients, while simultaneously de-risking the service proposition for respiratory providers.”

To the cloud?

By better connecting oxygen patients with providers through wireless communications, manufacturers such as Invacare are creating a fully linked eco-system that gives HME companies remote visibility to the performance of their deployed fleet, Okunola said.

“This can help increase efficiency, reduce equipment and patient downtime, encourages patient use and ultimately makes everyone better off,” she said. “There are many needs connected technology can address—remote patient monitoring for better outcomes is just one of them.”

Basically, the system works this way: Data is collected from the oxygen concentrator and sent to the cloud. A relevant subset of that data is displayed to the patient with an app that can be downloaded to a smartphone. A second subset of the transmitted oxygen concentrator data is relevant to the provider and can be accessed from the cloud. Through a portal, providers can monitor their connected fleet of POCs and equipment runtime, oxygen purity and battery data with options for troubleshooting if the need arises. Bluetooth and cellular or Internet connectivity are required for transmitting the data.

“While we can provide an incredible amount of data, what’s critical is parceling out relevant information to the particular stakeholder to drive performance and enhance use,” Okunola said.

Even so, providers need to determine whether remote patient monitoring has a real benefit for their business, said Mitchell Yoel, senior vice president of Global Commercial Operations for Port Washington, N.Y.-based Drive DeVilbiss.

“Remote patient monitoring is a double-edged sword,” he said. “Utilization management has been around for many years in equipment like CPAP devices. Understanding how devices like CPAPs were utilized, impacted and drove changes in reimbursement. Privacy considerations and potential changes in LTOT practices may need to be implemented once more information is discovered regarding how and how often patients are utilizing their equipment.”

PJ Ruffian, director of sales for Chicago-based Sunset Healthcare Solutions, believes remote patient monitoring “will become the next big thing—how it’s applied will be the subject of conversation.”

‘Blocking & tackling’

Various technologies are aimed at creating a lower-cost, non-delivery model that allows respiratory providers to trim their overhead enough so that they can effectively compete in an increasingly challenging market.

Scott Wilkinson, CEO of Goleta, Calif.-based Inogen, says the most important product improvements for POCs can be categorized as “basic blocking and tackling”—building better products with minimal failure rates that successfully enable the non-delivery model.

“This will be the most important thing to providers and patients as the POC model continues to scale and providers get more confidence in the non-delivery concept,” he said. “While portable oxygen concentrators have been available for over 10 years, we are really seeing provider adoption of POCs pick up over the last two to three years. Providers are looking to POCs and the non-delivery model as a way to reduce costs and cope with the reimbursement reductions driven by competitive bidding.”

Because POC usage has been intermittent to date, providers understandably want to know if these units can perform on a continuous basis over a five-year amortization cycle, Wilkinson said.

“After all, the success of the non-delivery model is dependent on POCs being simple enough for the majority of patients to use without significant hand-holding, as well reliability—avoiding costly, unplanned service calls due to excessive product failures,” he said. “The emergence and continued adoption of this model will, ultimately, allow home oxygen providers to survive the significant reimbursement cuts that have been realized through the national competitive bidding program.”

Tried and true: cylinders

In terms of durability, the oxygen cylinder with a regulator or conserver is still at the top, said Tom Bannon, president of St. Louis-based Responsive Respiratory, which focuses on high-pressure oxygen equipment and does not handle POCs.

“They don’t require electricity and work during hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters,” he said.

Although cylinders require transport, Bannon contends that deliveries can be reduced by dropping off enough cylinders for a “once-per-quarter cycle.” Providers can also request that patients pick up cylinders, which not only cuts down on van mileage, but also brings customers in-store for retail opportunities, he said. 

 

Category: Home Oxygen

 

TECHNOLOGY KEY

·       Double benefit: Whether it’s adding remote patient monitoring capabilities or engineering oxygen equipment for greater durability, efficiency and longevity, the benefits are better patient outcomes and lower provider costs. By working to secure a non-delivery business model, providers can become more competitive in what has become a challenging market.

 

GETTING CONNECTED

·       The ‘next big thing’: Remote patient monitoring, generating connectivity through oxygen equipment or mobile device apps, allows providers to keep tabs on vital patient data while also ensuring that the equipment is being used in the manner prescribed. This facet of digital data transmission is expected to grow exponentially as technology advances.

 

MODALITY REVIEW

·       POCs vs. cylinders: There are cases to be made for both portable oxygen concentrators and cylinder systems as viable primary modalities. POC manufacturers are working to expand the units’ durability beyond periodic use and become dependable and durable for a consistent five-year cycle. Cylinders are not interrupted by power outages caused by storms or other natural disasters and delivery costs can be trimmed by supplying enough tanks for a “once-per-quarter” delivery schedule.

 

 

 

 

Cutting overhead drives innovation in oxygen market

By John Andrews, Contributing Editor

Oxygen technology continues to make strides, from remote monitoring connectivity to product engineering that bolsters efficiency, durability and longevity. And while new product designs ultimately benefit the patient, they are also geared toward saving providers money in a hardscrabble reimbursement climate, manufacturers say.

“The goal of technological innovation is to drive better outcomes and lower costs across the board more efficiently,” said Biola Okunola, global marketing manager, respiratory, for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare. “Today’s technological innovations are directed at making the use of oxygen and compliance easier for patients, while simultaneously de-risking the service proposition for respiratory providers.”

To the cloud

By better connecting oxygen patients with providers through wireless communications, manufacturers such as Invacare are creating a fully linked eco-system that gives HME companies remote visibility to the performance of their deployed fleet, Okunola said.

“This can help increase efficiency, reduce equipment and patient downtime, encourages patient use and ultimately makes everyone better off,” she said. “There are many needs connected technology can address—remote patient monitoring for better outcomes is just one of them.”

PJ Ruffian, director of sales for Chicago-based Sunset Healthcare Solutions, believes remote patient monitoring “will become the next big thing—how it’s applied will be the subject of conversation.”

At the heart of successful patient monitoring is the development and installation of the proper software that ensures the capture and transmission of relevant patient data. This is especially critical for oxygen sub-categories like sleep therapy, which is driven by compliance requirements.

“It will affect the oxygen market, as well, and there should be the technology in place, whether on the unit itself or through mobile devices,” Ruffian said. “Along with patient vitals, the data should also include whether the patient is using the device as prescribed.”

Invacare is using informatics and connectivity for its oxygen therapy products, in which “building and connecting all the pieces of the infrastructure is complex, but the concept and value to the user is simple,” Okunola said.

Basically, the system works this way: Data is collected from the oxygen concentrator and sent to the cloud. A relevant subset of that data is displayed to the patient with an app that can be downloaded to a smartphone. A second subset of the transmitted oxygen concentrator data is relevant to the provider and can be accessed from the cloud. Through a portal, providers can monitor their connected fleet of POCs and equipment runtime, oxygen purity and battery data with options for troubleshooting if the need arises. Bluetooth and cellular or Internet connectivity are required for transmitting the data.

“While we can provide an incredible amount of data, what’s critical is parceling out relevant information to the particular stakeholder to drive performance and enhance use,” Okunola said.

Even so, providers need to determine whether remote patient monitoring has a real benefit for their business, said Mitchell Yoel, senior vice president of Global Commercial Operations for Port Washington, N.Y.-based Drive DeVilbiss.

“Remote patient monitoring is a double-edged sword,” he said. “Utilization management has been around for many years in equipment like CPAP devices. Understanding how devices like CPAPs were utilized, impacted and drove changes in reimbursement.Privacy considerations and potential changes in LTOT practices may need to be implemented once more information is discovered regarding how and how often patients are utilizing their equipment.”

‘Blocking & tackling’

Various technologies are aimed at creating a lower-cost, non-delivery model that allows respiratory providers to trim their overhead enough so that they can effectively compete in an increasingly challenging market.

Scott Wilkinson, CEO of Goleta, Calif.-based Inogen, says the most important product improvements for POCs can be categorized as “basic blocking and tackling”—building better products with minimal failure rates that successfully enable the non-delivery model.

“This will be the most important thing to providers and patients as the POC model continues to scale and providers get more confidence in the non-delivery concept,” he said. “While portable oxygen concentrators have been available for over 10 years, we are really seeing provider adoption of POCs pick up over the last two to three years. Providers are looking to POCs and the non-delivery model as a way to reduce costs and cope with the reimbursement reductions driven by competitive bidding.”

Because POC usage has been intermittent to date, providers understandably want to know if these units can perform on a continuous basis over a five-year amortization cycle, Wilkinson said.

“After all, the success of the non-delivery model is dependent on POCs being simple enough for the majority of patients to use without significant hand-holding, as well reliability—avoiding costly, unplanned service calls due to excessive product failures,” he said. “The emergence and continued adoption of this model will, ultimately, allow home oxygen providers to survive the significant reimbursement cuts that have been realized through the national competitive bidding program.”

Tried and true: cylinders

In terms of durability, the oxygen cylinder with a regulator or conserver is still at the top, said Tom Bannon, president of St. Louis-based Responsive Respiratory, which focuses on high-pressure oxygen equipment and does not handle POCs.

“They don’t require electricity and work during hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters,” he said.

Although cylinders require transport, Bannon contends that deliveries can be reduced by dropping off enough cylinders for a “once-per-quarter cycle.” Providers can also request that patients pick up cylinders, which not only cuts down on van mileage, but also brings customers in-store for retail opportunities, he said. 

 

Category: Home Oxygen

 

TECHNOLOGY KEY

·       Double benefit: Whether it’s adding remote patient monitoring capabilities or engineering oxygen equipment for greater durability, efficiency and longevity, the benefits are better patient outcomes and lower provider costs. By working to secure a non-delivery business model, providers can become more competitive in what has become a challenging market.

 

GETTING CONNECTED

·       The ‘next big thing’: Remote patient monitoring, generating connectivity through oxygen equipment or mobile device apps, allows providers to keep tabs on vital patient data while also ensuring that the equipment is being used in the manner prescribed. This facet of digital data transmission is expected to grow exponentially as technology advances.

 

MODALITY REVIEW

·       POCs vs. cylinders: There are cases to be made for both portable oxygen concentrators and cylinder systems as viable primary modalities. POC manufacturers are working to expand the units’ durability beyond periodic use and become dependable and durable for a consistent five-year cycle. Cylinders are not interrupted by power outages caused by storms or other natural disasters and delivery costs can be trimmed by supplying enough tanks for a “once-per-quarter” delivery schedule.