Provider Perspective: Patricia Dinwiddie, RRT, Clinical Director, Resp-I-Care

What is the biggest challenge in offering liquid oxygen?
Scheduling patients to be home for refilling their stationary units. Also, the continually increasing fuel prices add to the operational expenses associated with providing liquid oxygen.

What is your strategy for success?
We strive to be the first provider in our service areas to offer the most up-to-date technology. We have bulk storage tanks at two of our locations to help reduce our price for liquid oxygen.

Does offering liquid oxygen give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace?
I believe so. Our referrals know that we are able to provide whatever oxygen system best meets their patient’s needs.

How many of your patients are using liquid? How big of a piece is liquid to your overall oxygen business?
We currently have 325 patients on liquid oxygen systems. Approximately 15 percent of our total oxygen business.

What must your RTs know to educate patients on liquid use?
Our RTs evaluate each oxygen patient to ensure they are prescribed the oxygen modality that best meets their individual needs. We look at their prescribed liter flow and hours of use, how many hours per week the patient is away from home, can they ambulate within the home without assistance, does the patient need to climb any stairs within the home to perform their normal activities of daily living? Patients need to be educated on the use and maintenance of their equipment, as well as the safety precautions associated with liquid oxygen. The patient or caregiver needs to be able to physically operate and refill the portable unit without difficulty.

What technologies or business operations have made your oxygen business more efficient?
We have global positioning systems placed in our delivery vehicles to increase routing and delivery efficiency. Our liquid vehicles have smaller bulk tanks allowing our staff to complete more fills once leaving the office. We are also looking at non-delivery technologies to help decrease operational costs associated with the expansion of our service areas.

As providers in competitive bid areas look at adding a liquid component to their businesses to meet Medicare stipulations, what advice would you give providers?
Consider it carefully. Providing liquid oxygen is a very labor-intensive process. Are you currently turning away business because your referrals are requesting liquid oxygen? Are your main competitors providing liquid oxygen? Look at your service area and where your oxygen patient population resides within that area.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management July/August 2008 issue of HME Business.

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