SeQual’s EDAT lets providers diagnose, fix POCs from the field.

The value proposition of portable oxygen concentrators is clear: POCs keep patients active, which not only helps them live life to its fullest, but also can benefit them medically via increased ambulation. Moreover, it moves providers to a non-delivery business model, drastically cutting the overhead that comes with tank delivery.

“Patients are getting out and doing more and living their lives, so we see the expansion of oxygen generating portable equipment really taking off and being a huge growth sector,” says Ron Richard, CEO of San Diego-based oxygen equipment maker SeQual Technologies Inc.

But what happens when a POC experiences technical difficulties? A faulty POC would typically require a provider to roll a truck to the patient’s home, and if the problem can’t be addressed by an obvious, simple fix, then that device would usually be brought back to the provider’s main office for further diagnosis and repair, or possibly back to the manufacturer. Meanwhile the costs of that downtime mount and the patient isn’t enjoying the same quality of life.

Enter EDAT
Which is why SeQual developed its Eclipse Data Acquisition Tool, Richard says. EDAT is a remote diagnostic system to help keep SeQual Eclipse POCs up and running, without having to bring them back to the provider office. It comprises three main components:
•    A connector that on one end plugs into an RS-232 serial port on the Eclipse, and a USB port on a computer or laptop on the other end.
•    SeQual’s Crossloop software, which lets a remote facility connect with the POC to view data, assist in repair and ensure it is properly calibrated.
•    A dongle to verify the software license.

The software offers various capabilities. To begin with, Crossloop lets field and in-house techs look at up to 300 of the most recent events that have been recorded on the device so that they can see, for instance, when it has gone on AC power, or when it has been running on a battery. It also monitors on a live basis various performance metrics such as compression, flow, pressure, temperature and battery power.

Also, the software provides remote control capabilities to let in-house techs change settings on the POC to gauge how they impact its performance. So, for instance, the remote tech could run a test on breath rates while the machine is in pulse mode to make sure it is cycling at the correct rate.
Because the field staff are using a wired or WIFI Internet connection to link the device with the central facility, they can then use their phones to discuss in real-time how to fix the POC.

Keeping Patients on the Go
Not only does the EDAT approach help providers keep devices up and running in the field, but it could also help them better support remote or traveling patients — a key considering given CMS’s new oxygen rules (see News, Trends & Analysis, page 8).

Under the new rules, providers must continue to care for their patients even when patients are travel outside their service area. This can become especially problematic for providers who might have to subcontract with other, remote providers to ensure service and support for “snowbird” patients that take long seasonal trips.

“If the patient were to go from Boston to Dallas, the dealer is supposed to be responsible for taking care of them,” Richard says. “If they’re on tanks and a concentrator, obviously you’re going to have to subcontract with someone.”
But with an EDAT-equipped Eclipse, the provider could remotely support that patient. “You could service the POC or at least diagnose it so you could say ‘there’s no need to send the machine back; what you need to do is reboot the battery,’” he says.

Other Benefits
There is an additional benefit to the tool, Richard says. While the remote diagnosis and repair is obviously the key benefit, the provider can also use the data for other purposes, such as for accreditation documentation, or to monitor patient compliance.

While the 300 events are not time or date stamped, they are recorded on a first-in, first-out basis. So the provider could use EDAT to see, for instance, when the device goes off AC power and onto the battery and how often, to denote how frequently the patient is ambulating.

EDAT comes in kits of three, which include three serial-to-USB EDAT adapters, three software licenses and three dongles. Each kit costs $1,595, and EDAT should be available sometime at the end of this month, or the beginning of January.

SeQual Technologies
(800) 826-4610

This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of HME Business.

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