How to Leverage Travel in Order to Transition Patients to POCs

POCOxygen patients’ biggest fears in using a portable oxygen concentration (POC) unit are typically running out of oxygen and being stranded without power. But A.J. Filippis, Chief Executive Officer of Wright& Filippis, a home medical equipment provider, says those fears are declining as new technology gains greater acceptance.

Previously, oxygen travel options, such as liquid systems, offered oxygen users very limited mobility, says Filippis. Patients had to be concerned whether they had enough oxygen to reach their destination or whether their destination would have the proper power source. As a result, they lived with limited travel range and opportunities.

“Portable oxygen concentrators came out several years ago with the ninepound pulse-dose-only technology,” says Filippis. “This technology proved to be less than reliable and I don’t believe the clinical community was ready for it quite yet. With the advent of the dual portable concentrator, which operated pulse dose and continuous fl ow, we are seeing much greater acceptance, even preference, from the clinical community, as well as a more robust reliable platform. We first saw POC when AirSep launched their first version, but became providers of the new technology with the introduction of the Inogen One about five years ago.”

But even though the travel stigma is declining, Filippis points out that there is a group of patients who view new technology as untested and, therefore, unreliable. For this group and all other POC candidates, Filippis says that a top-selling point to sway oxygen patients to POC is the freedom to travel. That’s why Filippis calls regular oxygen patient travelers “most eligible” for POCs.

“The fact that the FDA has approved POCs for travel makes a huge impact,” says Filippis.

In fact, POCs provide HME providers with a tremendous opportunity to offer travel expertise to patients, both capturing a niche market and becoming an even more trusted advisor. By helping patients travel and enjoy life, providers will help win patients for life.

Filippis suggests to oxygen patient customers that they try a short travel experience to build trust in the POC unit. As far as renting the units, although some providers do, Filippis says, “Wright & Filippis is not normally deploying POCs on a patient pay rent or purchase arrangement. They are, after all, quite expensive. We are deploying these units as a standard type system for highfrequency travelers and what we call ‘super mobile’ patients. We have found that the economics work for these types of patients.”

The key to building trust between the POC unit and the patient is education. According to Filippis, customers’ common questions include:

  • How often do I have to recharge?
  • Can I fly?
  • How will I receive service when I am out of your service area?

“We train on battery care and we make sure the patient understands what to do in case of service failure while traveling,” says Filippis. “We also discuss with them to travel with a copy of their oxygen prescription, to be prepared to obtain oxygen out-of-pocket in case of an emergency (for which we reimburse), and to always know providers residing in the area where they are staying and how they can be reached quickly.”

One way to counter skepticism regarding POCs is to discuss the benefits of using portable oxygen.

“Patients traveling with a POC has maximum freedom,” says Filippis. “As long as they can access a power source every few hours, patients can travel by any mode and continue on long, extended trips. The patient does not need to stop and re-fill tanks and contend with the weight and inherent dangers of traveling by car with oxygen tanks on board.”

Filippis says that many patients with POCs begin traveling within weeks after receiving their POC unit.

“CMS has provided additional funding in excess of the normal oxygen fees for POCs and given the cost advantages of a system that does not regularly require truck delivery of compressed gas, Wright & Filippis sees a demographic set of patients that can continue their very active lifestyle with little-to-no interruption,” says Filippis. “Yes, POCs are great for travel, but they are great for living as well.”

Points to take away:

  • One of the POC’s top-selling points is freedom to travel.
  • Oxygen patients’ biggest fears are running out of oxygen and being stranded without power.
  • Even though POCs are better than they’ve ever been, some patients are unsure of new technology.
  • The key to getting oxygen patients to try POCs is by building trust through education.
  • Suggest to customers that they try a short travel trip to build trust with the POC.
  • Train customers how to power the unit.
  • Remember, POCs are great for travel, but they are great for living, as well.

Learn more:

  • Various vendors offer guidelines on which airlines will accept their POCs, and the airlines provide similar information, as well. Visit their web sites for the full details.
  • Visit our compendium of POC articles/products.

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Joseph Duffy is a freelance writer and marketing consultant, and a regular contributor to HME Business and DME Pharmacy. He can be reached via e-mail at joe@prooferati.com.

The Key to Patient Engagement