Mediwell: POCs 'really good thing'

Sunday, September 30, 2007

FORT WORTH, Texas - Many providers hesitate to make significant investments in portable oxygen concentrators because they have so much tied up in existing technology and POCs are expensive. But Mediwell, a full-line provider based here, has made a name for itself as the biggest Medicare supplier of POCs. It supplied 401 Medicare beneficiaries with the technology in 2006, according to data HME News obtained from CMS via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In turn, the provider received $73,493 in reimbursement. Its closest competitor, Homecare of Fidelity in Houston, supplied 281 beneficiaries with POCs. Here's what Randy Freeman, Mediwell's owner, had to say about POCs and why he's sold on the new technology.
HME News: First off, is home oxygen your biggest product and Medicare your biggest payer?
Randy Freeman: Oxygen and enteral are my biggest products, and Medicare's my biggest payer at 64%. My hope is to get Medicare down to 40%, managed care up to 40% and retail to 20%. Managed care is 26% right now, which is good, considering we had 0% two years ago.
HME: When did you first get a taste for POCs?
Freeman: I got a unit after Medtrade in 2001, just to play with it. Initially, I wasn't pleased with some companies suggesting that you could use conserver technology 24/7, and a lot of physicians were concerned about pulse-dose technology. Still, I was fascinated. When continuous-flow came around, it really peaked my interest, and it's proven to be a really good thing.
HME: Who's the typical POC user?
Freeman: Generally, it is a person who is a little bit more mobile and who is stronger or has a caregiver to assist them. A few of the things that we have heard back from patients is that they like how much less noise POCs produce compared to concentrators. They also like them for traveling--they can use them in airplanes, cars. It alleviates 90% of the headaches.
HME: How did you know POCs would be a wise investment?
Freeman: I'm looking at the 36-month oxygen cap and competitive bidding, and they're influencing every decision I make. With existing technology, we get our costs back sooner, but even with POCs, we get our costs back in one year's worth of reimbursement. It makes even more sense, when you consider, how can I do the least amount of service with the greatest amount of return? Some patients actually bring their POCs to our facility if there's a problem, saving us a trip.
HME: Are beneficiaries requesting POCs?
Freeman: Patients are coming in and requesting the technology. There's a lot of word of mouth. We're also doing some marketing with referral sources, but there's a very fine line we have to walk there.
HME: Because of the oxygen cap?
Freeman: Yes. We've put handcuffs on ourselves, so we don't disappoint a lot of people. We're going to our current referral sources and yes, we're going to some new ones, and we're saying, "Here's what we have and here's what it can do. We know that you've seen this technology before, but this one has a continuous mode on it." That generally gets a lot of interest. But because of the cap, you also have to say, "For this technology, we prefer new patients or patients who've had equipment for six months or less." Just so they understand that the math has to be there for us to put it out.