Travelers breathe easy

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Oxygen user Ellen Hussey made her annual pilgrimage to her daughter's house for Thanksgiving, despite recently going on 24-hour oxygen.
Hussey's new portable oxygen concentrator is easier for her to maneuver in and out of hotels or her camper.
"My new provider was trying to accommodate me with the car thing," said Hussey. "We do travel a bit, so it's just been great."
Millions of people hit the roads during the holiday travel season and oxygen users are no different. Hussey is typical of many traveling seniors, who enjoy weekend jaunts to visit family or enjoy local scenery, said Heather Mangold, vice president of business development for Waukesha, Wisc.-based Oxygen One.
"They usually (take) car trips that are less than two hours," said Mangold. "They want more time with family and the equipment can accommodate that."
Mangold said the availability of POCs and other improvements in equipment--like smaller sizes and lighter weights--have led to an increase in patient travel. About 17% of Oxygen One's patients travel--above the national average of 6% to 7%, she said.
"We always try to be a leader in new equipment," said Mangold. "We own several different types of POCs, and have smaller liquid oxygen stationary units for people who want to take them in their car."
Oxygen One mails out a travel booklet each spring, with tips for car, plane and cruise ship travel, and the available equipment options.
VGM and The Med Group both offer travel network programs, making it easier for providers to service their patients on longer trips.
"We help set patients up with oxygen at their destination, as well as the various stops during travel," said Tom Pontzius, president of VGM's Nationwide Respiratory. "We also have a pool of concentrators available for our members to utilize."
Oxygen One both rents out its own equipment and belongs to the Med Group. Rental rates are much less expensive than owning, said Mangold. However, while reasonable pricing is important, it rated lowest on patients' list of concerns, she said.
"You're talking about people who are recognizing that life is not indefinite," said Mangold. "They want to enjoy the time they have left. I don't think you can put a price tag on that."