Medicare clears up confusion

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

ASHINGTON -- In a July advisory, Medicare clarified many of the sticking points that prevented some providers from embracing new technology for pulse oximetry testing.
According to the CMS transmittal, DME providers can deliver and pick up home oximetry tests to Medicare patients -- a decision aimed at speeding up the process of qualifying oxygen patients. However, the provider cannot instruct the patient on how to use the test, and programs must have the capability of preventing anyone but the independent diagnostic testing facility (IDTF) from accessing the test results.
"The clarifications are all really good, but it also says it is a way that doesn't specifically speak to anybody's company, and it is going to allow for innovation and whatever else in the future," said John Morris, president and CEO of Patient First Testing, a pulse oximetry testing IDTF in Fremont, Neb.
CMS began the process of clarifying the oximetry testing rules last year after several new devices, like the Power Ox and Invacare's Web Ox, entered the marketplace. Despite the promise of such programs in streamlining the oxygen qualification process, many providers were skeptical about boarding the bandwagon until CMS gave its public approval.
Morris said this transmittal did just that. He expects to sign up 1,000 new Patient First software users in the month following the announcement.
"We have an awful lot of people who were waiting for the regulation because their compliance departments were concerned," he said. "No one knew what CMS was going to say until they said it."
CMS stressed in the trasmmital that the DME can serve only as a courier and cannot participate in administering the test. The DME also cannot access or have the means to manipulate the results at any time.
CMS also said that it had no intention to regulate ownership of the pulse oximeter -- a point that the various systems quibbled over. The Letco Company's IDS system allows providers to own the oximeter, whereas Power Ox users have to transfer ownership to the IDTF.
"This is not an open endorsement that says just because you use this technology that the test is valid," warned Letco President Mickey Letson. "You still must follow the rules and regulations related to the qualification of patients. This is not a replacement of those rules. Medicare is still going to be looking for some surety that patients are being tested accurately."