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Providers try to balance cost, convenience of POCs

Providers try to balance cost, convenience of POCs

YARMOUTH, Maine – Adoption of portable oxygen concentrators has increased, but providers say the units still present challenges, particularly when it comes to durability. 

In general, the lighter the weight, typically the less durable the device, says Dave Anderson, owner of Anderson's Medical Products in Terre Haute, Ind. 

“The heavier and more protected it is, (the more durable it is), but you lose the benefit of the light weight, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “I would like to make better use of POCs. While we sell them, we don’t provide them automatically.” 

From 2018 to 2022, Medicare spend on POCs (E1390) has increased nearly 60% from $33.8 million to $53.9 million, respectively. 

When it comes to durability, sieve beds, in particular “need to be figured out,” says Lee Guay, respiratory director at Fairview Home Medical Equipment in St. Paul, Minn. 

“You buy a machine for close to $2,000 and then you are going to replace the sieve beds every year,” he said. “Some of it is end user abuse, but it’s a miracle if you get a year’s use.” 

To counter that, Guay tries to keep certain repairs in-house, but he says an ongoing parts shortage has complicated that. 

“The sieve bed is plug-and-play, but we don’t have them on hand and the downtime has been horrendous,” he said. “We have nearly 100 machines waiting for parts to be repaired, and you have to buy 100 machines to replace them.” 

Also, some repairs simply can’t be done in-house, says Brian Wilson, COO of Commonwealth Home Health Care in Danville, Va. 

“There are a couple you can’t do the work yourself, so we’ve stayed away from those because of the time it takes to get them repaired,” he said. “We’ve found some brands that we’ve just backed away from because they’ve had some issues.” 

Rhythm Healthcare recently launched a program where it will replace any of its POCs that break down within the three-year warranty period due to manufacturer defect in a move that the company hopes leads to wider adoption. Provider Jason Jones says he’s “a fan” of Rhythm Healthcare, but when it comes to providing oxygen, a lot depends on the patient. 

“I don’t love POCs as the sole source of portable oxygen,” said Jones, president of Troy, Ala.-based Jones Medical Supply. “We still think HomeFill is better. For a 45-year-old, a POC makes sense, but for a 90-year-old who can’t carry a three-pound POC but can carry a two-pound HomeFill, we try to have those options.”


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