The 2013 HME Handbook: Oxygen

The ABCs of POCs

How to educate patients on portable oxygen systems for optimal results.

OxygenNo matter how HME providers decide to reduce costs to survive a wounded economy and the onslaught of cuts, caps, audits and competitive bidding assaulting their industry, the most import challenge is keeping patient care at the highest level possible.

Adding new processes, downsizing, outsourcing and spending less to survive can certainly help the bottom line, but change can also threaten the pace of company growth and overall profitability. How do you stay competitive and not alter your goal of achieving a high standard of patient care?

One option is to use some of the savings found with downsizing or implementing new technology and business models, such as low/no delivery, to oversee that patients are achieving good outcomes.

“We implemented a delivery tech manager who is responsible for making sure every patient is seen for tanks or checks,” says David Baxter, President, Medical Necessities. “This person evaluates utilization of tank usage and frequency and is responsible to pull the frequent flyers (patients who need tanks all the time) and have them schedule with therapists to get them evaluated for conserving devices or new technology systems to cut back on usage but provide patients with necessary equipment to keep them active. The delivery tech manager is also responsible to get patients scheduled with a routing system that we developed to eliminate unnecessary trips to areas that we are not in daily, which optimizes productive of technicians.

Once you understand the patient’s lifestyle and needs, and match him or her with the proper portable oxygen system, here’s what your portable oxygen patient needs to know:

Make sure patients understand why they are using the particular device you recommended for them. You want the patient to feel empowered and use this device to manage their treatment. Go over situations they will encounter, such as when ambulating up stairs or traveling in a vehicle. Makes sure they understand the benefits of the device, from newfound freedom to being able to exercise more often. Make sure to go over any physician input. Other subjects to discuss: Does the patient travel overnight? Does the patient travel more than 25 miles away from their home? Make sure you address all their concerns.

Train patients in their home. Make sure they understand all the buttons, switches, connection devices and readings. Watch their body language and facial expressions when you talk to them. Are they getting it? Remember, the more confident they are in the use of their device, the easier it will be for you to manage the relationship. Ultimately, patients who control their own oxygen needs will feel more free and independent. That’s an invitation for them to move about more and keep a positive attitude.

Ask your patient to buy a finger pulse oximeter. One expert suggests that providers teach their portable oxygen patients how to use a pulse oximeter in order for them to participate in the management of their own disease. This helps them to better understand their limits and capabilities. Patients who know how to adjust their OCD setting based on oxygen saturation readings are less likely to experience poor outcomes. And understanding disease management may promote greater levels of activity.

Educate patients about battery management. Help alleviate patient fears of running out of power, hence running out of oxygen, and reviewing what to do in case of battery failure.

Make the patient feel a part of the decision. Consider creating a chart of possible devices and the pros and cons of each. Although patients might want a smaller product to carry, they might balk if it means a rise in their monthly electricity costs. Ultimately, you want to match the patient to the portable system.

Teach the patient what to do when the device doesn’t work properly. Portable oxygen systems have shown to be reliable, but educating patients on what to do if something fails is paramount. If patients are having a problem troubleshooting the device, they need clear instructions on whom to contact. Also go over scenarios that should trigger the patient to call their physician, such as shortness of breath, when the system is working properly.

Develop an education plan for each type of device you will introduce to new patients. Use your own experience and manufacturer literature, videos and websites. If you still need questions answered, contact the manufacturer representative. Many of them will do in-person education for your staff. Also, look for trade show seminars on products, CEU opportunities and workshops. The more you know about what your patients need to know, the more at ease and compliant your patients will be.

Points to take away:

  • Education is key to patient compliance and maintaining a high standard of patient care.
  • Teach patients how to troubleshoot, about battery management and how to determine when its best to call their physician instead of their HME provider.
  • Create an educational plan for each device you place with patients. This will help you to be thorough and not miss important information regarding training the patient.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of HME Business.

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