New technology supports growth in home vent biz

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

YARMOUTH, Maine - Smaller may be better when it comes to home ventilators, but manufacturers certainly aren’t skimping on features in attempts to slim down their home vents.

In fact, trends in home ventilation have manufacturers adding more features and functions aimed at benefiting the patient, caregiver and respiratory business.

“These next generation ventilators offer features that are more similar to that of ICU ventilators,” said Joe Lewarski, president of Hytech Homecare and Hytech Medical Supply in Mentor, Ohio.

Terry Hull, owner of Terry Respiratory Care Services in Houston, Texas, said features like continuous flow and pressure support are leading innovations in the field and allow providers to offer a whole new range of services.

Hull, whose company has 75-100 home ventilators out at any one time, said technology advancements are allowing vent patients and infants to leave the hospital setting and return home.

“These vents are very clinically oriented,” said Hull. “We take them from the very intense setting of the hospital and then facilitate long-term home care.”

The advent of turbine technologies and dual piston technologies has shrunk the size of the vents, which benefits ventilator patients and caregivers by reducing weight and increasing mobility, according to Lewarski.

Non-invasive ventilation, however, has not seen a similar boom in technology, in part due to reimbursement issues, said Lewarski. The machines have seen improvement, but a limited market on the homecare side means fewer manufacturers are breaking into the field.

Roberta Domos, owner of Domos HME Consulting Group, reminds providers that tricky reimbursement requirements and codes could quickly turn a profitable venture into a failed experiment.

The decision to move into ventilation means moving into critical care and taking on more complex cases that involve multiple therapies and products, said Lewarski.

“Depending on the type of ventilator case, it can be a fairly large case as opposed to just running a ventilator and trying to determine your P&L based off of that one vent,” he said.