Where is O2 therapy headed?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

One could probably say that home oxygen therapy has been in transition for the better part of a decade with all the technological innovations and reimbursement finagling going on in the marketplace. Now, with national competitive bidding a reality, continued talk about capping oxygen reimbusement at 18-months and portable systems gaining more sophistication, it seems that the sector is truly at a crossroads.
HME News recently asked respiratory equipment manufacturers to offer their thoughts on where they think the home oxygen market is headed in terms of policy, equipment utilization and technological advancements. Their responses follow:
Pam Jackson, director of strategic marketing, San Diego-based SeQual Technologies:
We see a trend toward smaller, lighter and more-powerful oxygen concentrators. Because this new technology makes providing oxygen easier and cheaper, we also predict that more and more enterprising business people will get into the oxygen provider business. These new oxygen providers may take marketshare from the large national providers who have thus far been slow to adopt new technology. Increasing patient knowledge about their choices will also contribute to this trend.
Dr. Robert Hoover, former chief medical officer, Somerset, Pa.-based DeVilbiss Healthcare:
Technology is advancing rapidly in the area of home oxygen therapy. I think you'll see improvements in zeolite (material that concentrates the oxygen from room air and is the heart of a stationary or portable concentrator) in terms of their oxygen extraction efficiency. With improved efficiency in zeolites and battery technology, devices will be able to decrease in size and weight. There's also a considerable amount of work being done to produce liquid oxygen from room air in a device that is small enough to be placed in the home. At the present time, using liquid oxygen is the only way to achieve an ultra-light weight system but is hampered by the need to refill the system.
Steve Shaw, president, Marietta, Ga.-based Caire:
Economics will continue to drive the oxygen landscape for the next two to three years with reduced payments, economically driven oxygen products and reduced provider services. The next two to three years after that will have clinicians more involved with the diagnosis and specific treatment for the patients. This is due to increased patient hospitalizations with exacerbations and complications associated with inability to ambulate, exercise or do activities of daily living caused by systems that did not oxygenate their patients.
Steve Krentler, global product manager, oxygen products, Northampton, Pa.-based Precision Medical:
We have already seen a shift to new technologies like portable oxygen concentrators and transfillers. The shift will continue and increase as long as the cost of these technologies continues to fall. The oxygen patient will also continue to change--younger patients living longer lives who are more independent and have more financial resources will be willing to reach into their own pockets to get a better system, more suited to their needs than the basic system Medicare will pay for. This is the intent of the capped rental system, similar to what the federal government did to prescription drugs.