Are POCs becoming modality of choice?

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Friday, May 31, 2019

Driven by growing consumer demand, portable oxygen concentrators are becoming more mainstream in the HME industry. And not only are the devices becoming the preferred modality for consumers, they are also being increasingly embraced by physicians and other respiratory clinicians, oxygen market observers say.

There are various reasons for the burgeoning growth, but the dominant force seems to be high consumer demand. Patients want these units, said Frank Lazzaro, director of global product management for Andover, Mass.-based Philips’ Respiratory Telehealth and O2 Therapy division.

“More and more, healthcare consumers are becoming active participants in their own care – with greater access to information online, patients are becoming more involved in deciding how and where they receive their healthcare solutions and services,” he said. “Today, we’re seeing these expectations reach the respiratory care industry, specifically the oxygen segment. Value and convenience are key elements for patients, who want their oxygen therapy to be just as mobile, personalized, affordable and accessible as any other consumer commodity.”

The evolution of POCs has mirrored increased demand and manufacturers have added a number of product augmentations and options for providers and patients, said Dave Lyman, vice president of Waterloo, Iowa-based VGM Respiratory.

“POCs are a great option for those traveling, discharges from hospitals, patients who aren’t in close proximity to their provider, and patients who are very active,” he said. “And they’re useful in reducing long-term overhead costs. Because of this, POCs have grown in popularity, a trend that will likely continue as technology advances and reimbursements decline.”

Donald Oleforo, group product manager for United Kingdom-based Gas Control Equipment, says greater demand has accelerated competition among manufacturers in the marketplace, creating a “push the envelope” attitude for technological advancement.

“What we’ve seen over the past decade is patients, clinicians and physicians now see the potential for POCs – especially as a legitimate therapy for those in early stage respiratory diseases like COPD,” he said. “Oxygen used to be prescribed in later stages, so patients needed a higher flow. Now with better awareness, diseases are diagnosed earlier and oxygen is prescribed earlier as well, so POCs have become the modality of choice.”

Getting connected

As the healthcare industry shifts away from fee-for-service toward a value-based care model, Lazzaro sees more HME providers seeking out and adopting seamless, patient-centered care through connected care technologies designed to both improve patient care and lower associated costs.

“It’s important for HME providers to understand the potential of these technologies across hospital and home, and how they connect people, technology and data to uncover actionable insights informing effective care pathways,” he said. “For patients with chronic respiratory conditions, connected care devices can help increase adherence to treatment, which can lower the chance of readmission by allowing patients and physicians to stay connected throughout the course of therapy.”

The Philips Care Orchestrator is a connected-care patient management system that enables providers, physicians – and even payers – to view critical data through one unified platform, allowing near real-time feedback to patients about their treatments.

“An HME provider can better stay in tune with all of their patients, while focusing on those that require immediate response and attention,” Lazzaro said. “The care team can better understand a patient’s therapy and troubleshoot issues early on to help increase compliance with treatment.”

Winter Haven, Fla.-based 3B Medical plans to have all of its devices connected within the next 12 months, said Angela Giudice, director of clinical education.

“We do not necessarily think this impacts patient comfort or quality of care, but it does allow the provider to track utilization and schedule maintenance more efficiently,” she said.

Lyman notes that using POCs that are more connected will have a positive impact on patient utilization and outcomes because it displays real-time data that shows whether the patient is using the equipment properly.

“This allows the provider to communicate timely with the patient and medical professional to prevent an exacerbation or a trip to the emergency room,” he said.

GCE has introduced two POCs – the Zen-O and Zen-O Lite that use GSM modules to transmit unit status data to a cloud system, which “helps to eliminate unnecessary visits to check on the workings of the device,” Donald said. “We have invested heavily to make these units smart and connected.”

Fostering adoption

HME providers have been relatively slow to adopt POCs as a primary oxygen modality, but once they understand the cost savings benefits, they are embracing the units, said Chris Southerland, vice president of Global Respiratory Sales for Ball Ground, Ga.-based CAIRE.

“We are seeing our HME providers growing in their desire to offer non-delivery models in oxygen therapy that include both stationary and portable concentrator modalities,” he said. “This non-delivery model has proven to be a cost-effective way to grow patients and validity to referral sources, while lowering labor costs to serve the patients and thus, improving margins.”

HME providers need help in navigating the myriad options related to oxygen therapy modalities and are asking for help related to improving their bottom line, Southerland said.

“Non-delivery models, hospital discharge programs, POC programs and telehealth applications are some of the new industry trends that may seem daunting, but can really improve top and bottom lines,” he said.