Providers slow to embrace POCs

Monday, July 27, 2015

YARMOUTH, Maine – The technology has become more ubiquitous, but some providers still aren’t comfortable using portable oxygen concentrators for long-term oxygen therapy, they say. 

The reason? Reliability, in particular when it comes to their shorter battery life.

“Most of them aren’t really built for 24/7 use,” said Rick Adamich, president of Waukesha, Wis.-based Oxygen One, who rents POCs for travel.

Provider Jim Spellman agrees. 

“There are a lot of problems in the field and it causes a lot of redeliveries and frustration,” said Spellman, owner of New Berlin, Wis.-based Home Care Medical, who also rents POCs for travel.

Stationary concentrators still account for 95% of Spellman’s oxygen business. 

Despite nagging concerns, providers admit the technology has improved over the last two to three years.

“There’s one company that has a machine that gets 4 liters continuous, which 80-90% of patients need,” said Chip Fuller, vice president of operations at Boiling Springs, S.C.-based Quality Home Medical. “If manufacturers continue to hit that 4-liter mark, it makes more sense to move in that direction.”

One reason providers are eager to move “in that direction” are the substantial cost savings associated with POCs. 

“POCs are good because they help us monitor our delivery costs,” said Fuller. “The machines are a little more expensive, but if you’re going out to patients’ homes once a week at $50 to $70 a clip, it makes sense if you can cut out that expense.”

Currently, POCs account for less than 15% of Quality Home Care’s business, but Fuller says that number could increase once POCs capable of 4 LPM of continuous flow become more common. 

Until then, providers like Adamich say they’re much more partial to transfilling units. 

“I think there’s still a little more versatility there, a little more reliability, and you’re still accomplishing that goal of a non-delivery system,” he said.