Versatility, durability key ventilation sales features

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

More ventilator patients are being treated at home on non-invasive positive pressure ventilation systems, increasing the number of treatments being conducted outside the hospital. While adults in the early stages of degenerative neuromuscular diseases like ALS are part of that migration, it is primarily pediatric patients who comprise the bulk of the home respiratory provider’s care base for ventilation management.

Therefore, pediatricians and physicians specializing in pediatric medicine should be at the top of the referral source list, said David Fowler, director of sales for Minneapolis-based Pulmonetics.

“Six years ago you didn’t see kids going home on CPAP - now you do,” Fowler said about the introduction of Pulmonetic’s LTV 950 ventilator in 1999. “Referral sources need to be made aware that the home environment is much more conducive for rehabilitation. Children always do better at home. Almost immediately after getting out of the hospital they start growing. Our vent is the first outside experience they have.”

A prime selling point of the LTV 950 is its versatility, Fowler said. The device can be used for invasive and non-invasive therapies.

“It is the complete package,” he said. “It is a transportable ICU vent that offers as much or as little as you need.”

Additionally, Pulmonetic is rolling out a spontaneous breathing trial, a new procedure for weaning pediatric patients off the ventilator in a controlled environment. The program is predicated on the knowledge that lungs aren’t fully developed until age seven.

“This is very exciting,” he said. “It’s an extra step to get kids more active and to get them to the lowest-cost, safest environment.”

While ventilator referral sources tend to be pulmonologists and physician specialists, respiratory providers shouldn’t overlook general practitioners, case managers, insurance company medical directors and hospital discharge planners, said Ron Richard, president of Poway, Calif.-based ResMed.

“Generally the specialists are up to speed on product knowledge, but the general physician and others may not be,” he said. “They need to be educated. Schedule a half-day session with payers and their medical directors. Tell them about advancements in data collection, remote monitoring and telemedicine and how non-invasive ventilation prevents patients from developing pneumonia and subsequent re-hospitalization.”

Providers also need a strong educational component for professional and family caregivers involved with the home care patient, Richard said. ResMed’s bi-level devices are intended for those with sleep dysfunction or in the beginning stages of a degenerative condition such as ALS or polio.

“You must help those working with patients to understand their needs, whether it be a community nursing service or family member,” he said. “They need to know about which technology best matches up with the patient’s needs. This should be built into the provider’s business model, along with the right tools, technical support and software.”

Respiratory providers looking to be at the top of the referral source’s go-to list need to cover the waterfront when it comes to ventilation therapy and convey it in a convincing manner, added Cyndy Miller, director of clinical education for Newport Beach, Calif.-based Newport NMI.

“Providers serving the ventilation market need to handle all aspects of the process, from carrying the right products to setting up the equipment,” she said. “Their expertise has to go beyond just CPAP and BiPAP.”

Newport’s HT50 ventilator is among the new generation of homecare machines that employ features previously only found in the acute care setting, allowing patients to transfer home sooner. The system’s friction-free gas delivery system reportedly runs cooler and more energy efficient, allowing the small internal battery to support up to 10 hours of operation. The flow generator pulls ambient air or ambient air with oxygen into the dual piston system, that then generates the appropriate flow to the patient.

One of the most critical elements of ventilation therapy that providers should share with referring physicians is the delicacy of flow rate settings, Miller said. Patients typically need a range of settings to explore in order to find their optimum comfort zone.

“Non-invasive ventilation needs adjustment,” she said. “Providers can educate physicians on the finer points of ventilation so that they prescribe the most appropriate range for their patients.”

To assist ventilation providers with the nuances of the devices, Newport offers a round-the-clock support hotline. Newport NMI has both clinical application and technical service extensions in which callers are directed to leave a detailed message, including questions and contact information. If the call is an emergency, a specialist is paged immediately. Urgent calls are supposed to be returned as soon as possible.

Product durability is another important product feature that providers need to share with referral sources, said Kevin Rudolph, vice president of Kansas City, Mo.-based Hans Rudolph.

“In marketing to physicians, pointing out the product’s life cycle is essential,” he said. “When considering a product’s usability, they should look at whether a mask can withstand hundreds of dishwashing cycles or repeated steam autoclaving without melting. And the chin cup should be designed for long wear and have a seal that prevents leakage.”

The company’s new 7600 Vmask Oro-Nasal is a single-piece full-face mask with an integral sealing flange. Made of soft silicone rubber for improved comfort, the face piece is designed to be unbreakable. An anti-asphyxia valve provides additional safety and air vent holes are for dissipating CO2.

Mask simplicity is another benefit, Rudolph said, because some masks can contain up to 20 pieces, while others have as few as three. A greater selection of mask sizes is another marketing advantage, he said.
Category: Ventilation
Key referral sources
Pulmonologists, pediatricians, neonatalists, pediatric intensivists, hospital respiratory therapy departments, insurance company medical directors, neurologists, sleep physicians, sleep labs, case managers, hospital discharge planners, internal medicine and general practitioners.
Effective marketing techniques
Seek out systems that are versatile enough to serve patients with both high and low maintenance needs.

- Become knowledgeable in all forms of ventilation in order to gain credibility with the clinician. Go beyond CPAP and BiPAP therapies.

- Schedule a half-day in-service session with payers and their medical directors. Tell them about advancements in data collection, remote monitoring and telemedicine and how non-invasive ventilation prevents patients from developing pneumonia and subsequent re-hospitalization.

- Educate physicians on prescribing a range of flow settings in order to find each patient’s optimum comfort zone.

- Promote product durability, such as masks that withstand hundreds of dishwashing cycles and high-pressure steam autoclaving without melting.