Repairs: Nothing to be afraid of

Saturday, January 31, 2009

When Wayde Snow was hired four years ago to repair oxygen equipment for Helena, Mont.-based Apex of St. Peter’s Home Medical, staff could hardly get into the backroom without tripping over broken down machines. He has since repaired close to 1,000 concentrators, everything from $15 minor repairs to $275 major fixes. With repairs not covered after the 36-month cap, an in-house operation can save providers money, he told HME News recently.

HME News: What was the biggest challenge to setting up a repair department?

Wayde Snow: Getting hooked up with the appropriate parts suppliers and getting contacts established with manufacturers for warranty parts exchange.

HME: How does the exchange work?

Snow: For equipment under warranty, I look for patterns of what breaks down the most and stock the parts up front. When a repair comes in, I replace the part, call the manufacturer and they send me a replacement for free so I can maintain inventory.

HME: Why not just send out repairs?

Snow: First, you have to pay shipping, plus total shipping time takes about a week. Then, the manufacturers or repair centers usually need 10 days shop time. Depending on the size of your fleet, you get into a concentrator shortage and have to buy more to cover those downtimes. I can turn around a concentrator the same day it breaks down.

HME: Is Medicare’s five-year reasonable useful lifetime of equipment, in fact, reasonable?

Snow: A brand new concentrator can last five years, but it gets complicated when you consider the different environments they are placed in. Place a concentrator into a home with no pets or woodstove and the beneficiary uses it only at night, and five years from now, it’s got about 23,000 hours on it and it’s in good shape. Add pets or a fireplace, with a patient on oxygen 24/7, and now you are looking at 44,000 hours.