Problem Solver

Extending Sleep Revenues Through CPAP Cleaners

CPAP cleaners give providers a chance to not only stretch their revenues via a solid retail item, but also benefit their patients’ care and compliance.

As reimbursement of sleep therapy has narrowed, providers have worked to extend and expand their revenues. CPAP cleaners have come to the fore as a key product offering in this strategy. The devices are a solid retail extension to existing business, and they provide key benefits to the patients.

HMEB talked to a couple experts on the subject to better understand the business case for CPAP cleaners, the therapeutic benefit, and how providers can succeed in offering the devices: Bob Wilkins, CEO of SoClean, and Angela Giudice, RPSGT, director of clinical sales and education for 3B Medical.

Wilkins and Giudice represent companies that make popular CPAP cleaners that take unique approaches to disinfecting sleep devices. The SoClean and SoClean 2 Go devices use ozone to disinfect CPAPs and sleep equipment, and the 3B Lumin uses UVC germicidal light to do the job. While both devices take a different approach to the task, their aim is the same: help users keep their CPAPs clean, because dirty CPAPs develop bacteria that can smell and even make patients sick.

Let’s learn more from Wilkins and Giudice about why sleep providers should consider adding CPAP cleaners to their product lineup:

What’s the main business case for CPAP cleaning devices? What kind of per-patient revenue are we talking about?
Giudice: When competitive bidding resulted in a 48% drops in reimbursement, HMEs were impacted and some even opted to leave sleep. CPAP sanitizers restored profitability. They are a cash retail product. Selling Lumin at $249.00 puts 50% cash in the providers pocket and changes the equation. The Lumin device is also HSA/ FSA approved for patients, making the price tag an easier expenditure using pre-tax dollars. There aren’t any replaceable parts to the Lumin.

What’s the therapeutic case for CPAP cleaning devices?
Giudice: CPAP accessories harbor bacteria. Bacteria thrive in environments with moist air. Disinfecting CPAPs makes sense, reduces infections and exposure to pathogens.

Wilkins: You have to clean your CPAP. If you don't it collects bacteria, smells and people can get sick. And that leads to compliance issues. We've been out for seven years now, and when we first came into the business because we had a couple of employees that had CPAP machines. We asked them, hey, “If you're going to get into a new business model, what we could look at, what would you do?” And everybody came back and said, “this cleaning issue is a big deal. It's time consuming, it takes 25 to 30 minutes, it should be done daily, people don't do it. They go to bed and they smell their mask, and they go, oh, I'll do it tomorrow.”

Without a CPAP cleaner, how do patients usually clean their CPAPs?
Wilkins: It's disassembly of the hose, the mask and the water reservoir. Taking it to whatever water supply you have, usually the bathroom, and it's washing it out, it's scrubbing it with soap, with hot water. Which really isn't sanitizing or cleaning it, but you haven't really sanitized it yet, unless you're really good at getting hot water in there with a scrub brush. And then you've got to dry it, people hang it with the shower curtain or some other area. And then that can take another, whatever time, half an hour or so, and people will leave it. And then it's good to go. And it's just that motion is a time consuming motion and pain to do.

And a CPAP cleaner is a much simpler approach.
Wilkins: When we understood the problem, the solution had to be completely automated, no disassembly and super simple for the user to use. And I think that's what we have. The user takes off the mask in the morning, they've got to put it somewhere, you put it in our chamber, it's right there. You close the lid, you hit a button, and it starts up. And it takes a couple hours, it runs through the system, gets the hose, it gets the water reservoir, it gets the mask and everything 99.9% sanitized. It couldn't be any simpler for the user, just walk away and go.

What are effective ways to communicate the benefits of CPAP cleaning devices to sleep patients?
Wilkins: We've found that the DMEs we work with develop the best relationship with the customer that has been using the CPAP for a few months. With the new user, they've got the CPAP, I think everybody goes in thinking, “well I can clean it.” And after a few months, they don't and they now know they've got a problem. … It’s as simple as asking, “you've had it for a few months, are you cleaning it? How often? You've got a smelly mask?” And the provider says, “Look, I've got a solution for you, and it sanitizes the whole system.”

Giudice: 3B invests heavily in social media marketing. It is all about raising awareness. Most patients do not give the matter much thought. However, once it is pointed out that their CPAP equipment is a conduit for warm, moist air, and a breeding ground for bacteria, patients begin to understand the need for disinfection. The DME provider has a huge role to play in building that awareness.

How should providers also be marketing these to their referral partners?
Giudice: Spreading the word keeps patients equipment clean and fresh and even ensures that patients are keeping an eye on the condition of their equipment. … 3B Medical supplies a full media kit to providers looking to build awareness and promote Lumin. This includes, but is not limited to, images, videos and literature.

Wilkins: We work with sleep labs today, a lot in the DME industry sells our product. We have, with our partners, we have different programs they come into including a visual stand type display they've got. And then if a provider is a partner long enough in our system, we actually will promote their group in some of our TV and radio ads. … We spend millions of dollars a month in advertising, and we're starting to use that money to help promote some of the DMEs out there too.

What about other devices? Can CPAP cleaners clean oxygen therapy equipment, for example?
Giudice: The Lumin can clean anything that fits in its drawer some common products people disinfect are: toothbrushes, hearing aids, shoe insoles, baby items [toys, pacifiers, teethers], dentures, remote controls and cell phones. We are always surprised to receive feedback from consumers on the creative ways they are using Lumin. Lumin was designed for CPAP, but useful for almost any personal care item.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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