POC options abound, but providers remain conservative

Friday, June 14, 2019

YARMOUTH, Maine – When it comes to portable oxygen concentrators, providers have more choices than ever but, for the most part, they plan to stick with one or two brands.

“I’ve found in the long run that (it’s better) to stay consistent for patients and staff,” said Ron Evans, co-founder and CEO of Mesa, Ariz.-based Valley Healthcare. “If it works well and the price is right, I don’t add too many more, although over the years, that brand’s changed.”

While Inogen, Invacare and Philips Respironics are well known for POCs, companies like ResMed, Drive DeVilbiss, Chart Industries and GCE Group have waded in with new or newer versions of the devices. Belluscura, a U.K. company, plans to launch in the U.S. later this year.

They’ll all have their work cut out for them, say providers.

“The problem with this market segment is that most of the products are so similar that there’s not much of reason to offer a wide variety,” said Woody O’Neal, vice president of 02 Neal Medical in Pelham, Ala. “There’s different brands now, but the feature set is going to have to change or the price consideration is going to have to be significant.”

With more entrants to the market, pricing should start to come down, O’Neal says.

“For the longest time, the folks at Inogen did not have any peer-to-peer competition,” he said. “They’ve actually reduced their price in the past 12 months and I think it’s a result of (competition).”

For James Chung, who offers some POCs for cash-pay customers, reliability is an issue, so he sticks with trusted brands, like 02 Concepts.

“They are made in the U.S. and they carry a five-year warranty,” said Chung, owner of JC Home Medical in Jacksonville, Fla. “Most companies only carry a two- or three-year warranty and these machines just don’t hold up.”

One thing most providers agree on: Manufacturers that do a lot of direct-to-consumer advertising are driving a lot of interest in POCs.

“We don’t promote POCs and we are never going to promote POCs,” said Jason Jones, president of Jones Medical Supply in Troy, Ala. “But, our people see the commercials and they want to talk to us about it. It’s pretty and it’s lightweight, but we have those conversations and try to help the patient make the best decision.”