Provider's secret weapon? POCs

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CARTHAGE, Mo. - Portable oxygen concentrators may cost more, but they may provide the edge HME providers need to survive competitive bidding.

At least that's the hope of Jody Andrews, area manager of Carthage, Mo.-based Patient's Choice. He believes the savings associated with POCs--mainly in the form of reduced deliveries--will allow his company to put in a lower bid if and when competitive bidding comes to his area.

"Once the rental starts taking effect, we start getting our money back, because we're not sending drivers out to deliver all the time," Andrews said. "It actually saves us a lot of money compared to other companies that have to deliver."

Patient's Choice began offering oxygen in addition to its main product, power wheelchairs, a year ago.

Andrews offers the Philips Respironics EverGo POC, which features adaptors for vehicles and even European outlets.

"It's pretty much for a person that definitely wants to be mobile," Andrews said.

Patient's Choice has worked to further increase that mobility by developing a system whereby patients can charge their POCs from their power wheelchairs. A technician at the company developed the system and is trying to get it patented.

To be safe, patients on POCs also have stationary concentrators as backup. 

There are fears that the changes providers often have to make to survive competitive bidding lead to patient dissatisfaction or worse, but those aren't fears of Andrews', at least not when it comes to POCs. He says patient feedback has been positive. Patients who lost power during the May 22 tornado in nearby Joplin are sold on the technology, he said.

"I called my patients and made sure they were OK, and they were," Andrews said. "They were displaced, but they were still using their oxygen and there was no worry about anyone running out."