2018 HME Business Handbook: Oxygen

How To Enhance Oxygen Care Through Remote Monitoring

Remote device and patient monitoring are making in-roads into oxygen therapy. What do oxygen providers need to know?

Over the past decade, HME providers, and particularly those that provide oxygen services and equipment, have repeatedly found themselves in a position where they have had to react and respond to sweeping changes. They had to respond to the 36-month rental cap. They had to respond to competitive bidding. They had to respond to audits.

Thanks to technology, providers are starting to get to the point where they can dictate some changes. It began with portable oxygen solutions. Providers were able to take advantage of product innovations that let them redefine both care and their businesses. Patients were able to enjoy life more, benefit from increased ambulation, and providers were able to purge overhead from their business models.

Now another technological innovation is taking root, and it will help respiratory providers further redefine long-term oxygen therapy: remote patient monitoring. Remote patient monitoring is a capability well known and long enjoyed by providers of sleep therapy and diabetes care solutions. In a remote patient monitoring care continuum, the care devices — PAP devices and glucometers, in this case — can monitor patient performance and feed that data back to care management systems that physicians can use to see unique health events and tweak care. Those devices can also connect with personal apps that patients use to better manage their care.

UNDERSTAND THE OPPORTUNITY

To convey the scale and ubiquity of remote patient monitoring in both global and U.S. healthcare, let’s looks at some recent market data: At the outset of 2017, sleep therapy equipment manufacturer ResMed reported that 1 billion nights of sleep data had been downloaded using its AirView remote patient monitoring platform. That’s just one vendor. Factor in all the CPAP makers, and you can quickly get an impression of the scale involved with only the sleep segment of remote monitoring.

Globally, the number of remotely monitored patients grew by 51 percent to 4.9 million during 2015, according to researchers Berg Insight. Looking ahead, Berg reports the number of remotely monitored patients will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 48.9 percent to reach 36.1 million by 2020.

Where HME is concerned, connected medical devices, such as sleep therapy equipment, accounted for a whopping 71 percent of total remote patient monitoring revenues in 2015, according to Berg. And again, that’s just 2015.

Now, thanks to heavy vendor investment and innovation, remote monitoring has come to oxygen.

TECHNOLOGY EVOLUTION

The development of remote monitoring for portable oxygen concentrators has been a work in progress for a few years, and now it’s reaching the point of maturity. The first forays into remote POC monitoring came with devices that were largely founded on the concept of fleet management: providers would remotely monitor POCs to ensure they were being used and that they were functioning properly.

But that soon gave way to the notion of monitoring usage, and thusly patients. For example, let’s say a patient has an oxygen concentrator in his home, and is prescribed to use it for X number of hours a day at X setting. Remote monitoring could show that, for some reason, the patient is either getting more oxygen than was prescribed, or perhaps not getting the correct duration of usage.

However, it became obvious that if that data could be collected, then it could be managed in the same way as sleep and diabetes devices do. Now we are seeing portable and stationary concentrators that work with remote monitoring systems.

In an outcomes-oriented reimbursement environment, remote monitoring becomes indispensable because it allows those referral partners to work with HME providers and patients to optimize outcomes. This is not only good for the patient, but ensures that the physician and provider is reimbursed. In turn, the provider becomes a champion to both its referral partners and patients, and benefits from an ever-growing reputation for effectiveness and forward-thinking care. That’s a hard value proposition to ignore.

WHERE THINGS STAND

So, can providers offer remote patient monitoring out of the gate? There are products there that can let them do that, but the implementation might take time to ensure that such a service is “ready for prime time” in terms of referral partners and patients. Moreover, remote monitoring technology requires further development in order to deliver its full value to providers, patients and referrals.

What providers can definitely implement right here, right now, is the “fleet management” aspect of remote monitoring. Being able to monitor devices for faults and ensure the devices are actually being used has a clear value proposition for oxygen providers. The ability to track, troubleshoot, and maintain or repair devices in the field (in some scenarios) shouldn’t go ignored. Any way providers can proactively drive costs and increase client satisfaction is something worth monitoring.

With today’s technology, the devices are sending usage data, alarm codes, and performance metrics to a server that’s monitoring the devices. The provider can set up thresholds for the number of alarm violations or error codes on a device, and can then alert a technician to travel to the POC’s location and address the codes before a worse problem develops.

KNOW THE FUTURE

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see where oxygen care is headed. Getting to a landscape where remote monitoring is used to manage outcomes is not far away. The demand is certainly there and, as mentioned, other care markets have paved the way.

The more remote monitoring of portable oxygen devices proliferates, the more both patients and referral partners will demand it. The key is to start laying the foundation now so that the technology is in place, and that the provider already demonstrates to its market that it is driving that next-generation care.

POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Remote patient monitoring has radically redefined care and the busienss models for both sleep therapy equipment and diabetes providers.
  • Now it’s coming to oxygen devices. In fact, it’s already built into some portable and stationary oxygen concentrators.
  • Right now, the technology lets providers remotely monitoring and manage devices in the field for faults and proactively address those issues.
  • Devices are starting to collect usage data in order to better manage oxygen therapy.
  • It’s time to get in on the ground floor.

LEARN MORE:

To stay on top of key portable oxygen technology trends, make sure to follow our Oxygen Solutions Center at hme-business.com/microsites/oxygen.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of HME Business.

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