Using Fleet Management Tools to Improve Your Oxygen Business

Oxygen providers must keep track of preventative maintenance schedules for a wide variety of stationary oxygen concentrators, portable devices, and respirators. What tools are available to help them?

Fleet management can be an expensive headache for oxygen providers, which have the difficult task of keeping track of preventative maintenance (PM) cycles for hundreds if not thousands of portable oxygen concentrators and ventilators.

Most ventilators are on two-year and five-year PM cycles, and with thousands of dollars on the line for each machine, oxygen providers are particularly concerned about their maintenance. Portable and stationary oxygen concentrators are susceptible to the same types of issues as vents, including insect, water and smoke damage. Because of their lower base price, providers often must decide if it’s worth it to repair a POC or scrap it for a new product.

With missed PM cycles becoming a hot topic of news coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that providers know about the latest tools available to avoid serious fines and, most importantly, reduce patient risk during a period of extreme demand for life-saving oxygen equipment.

Recently developed software platforms are reducing the number of hoops that HME businesses must jump through to obtain a return merchandise authorization (RMA) number or track the amount of money they have spent on servicing a concentrator or ventilator. Some equipment servicing companies also provide UPS tracking numbers or delivery dates from their trucks.

These solutions answer central questions about where equipment is and when it was last serviced.

DAMAGE DONE

Seasoned oxygen equipment providers are unfortunately familiar with the type of damage that ventilators and oxygen concentrators can sustain over their life cycle. Patients living in the home of a smoker, or who smoke themselves, can permanently destroy a POC, and warm climates can lead to insect infestations, especially in the southern part of the U.S. Even pets can lead to issues with oxygen equipment, as dogs and cats may urinate or defecate on a machine while an owner isn’t looking.

The frequency of issues with oxygen equipment means that a major portion of providers spend well over $1000,000 per year on equipment service, with some larger companies spending up to $500,000 or even $1 million each year.

Fleet management is not an insignificant part of a provider’s cost generation, including resources spent on employees tasked with tracking down service records and managing a variety of vendors. With each vendor manufacturing a different machine with a specific repair process, equipment management can quickly become complex and overwhelming.

But, despite clear room for innovation, equipment servicing was not a major area for business improvement until recently. Now, companies are beginning to realize the amount of inefficiency that was inherent to the equipment servicing process and turning to new software solutions and servicing options.

SOFTWARE SOLUTION TO EQUIPMENT ISSUES

Cloud-based equipment management platforms, while not quite an industry standard yet, are becoming more popular among providers who want a self-serve option for a process that used to take hours or even days. Using technology like Quality Biomedical’s Q-Connect platform (qualitybiomedical.com), customers can click on a specific concentrator or ventilatory and request an RMA number that will be delivered within seconds.

Service records are now maintained online, with a provider able to click on a serial number of a machine and determine how much money was spent on the asset and if it’s worth pouring more funds and time into the oxygen product. Shipping is also tracked within the platform, showing a UPS tracking number if available or a return date if Quality Biomedical’s trucks are taking it back to a provider warehouse.

The platform has since been integrated into Brightree’s asset management offerings, allowing customers to perform maintenance duties within the more comprehensive HME software. Providers report an increase in efficiency, visibility and control over their own equipment management process, especially since HME businesses have the ability to see the big picture of their fleet’s PM cycles. There are also options to dig deeper into the details of where their oxygen products are in the maintenance process.

Most importantly, as equipment servicing becomes more efficient, staff will no longer have to dread fleet management and instead see it as crucial to their operations. Combined with remote monitoring technology that is making it possible to track down last machines, employees are having to spend less time on the nuisances of equipment management and more time on revenue-generating work.

NO ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ APPROACH

Each oxygen business is unique – some companies operate their own equipment trucks and some don’t. Some have more warehouse staff available to deal with concentrator or ventilator issues; others have none. This means that there is no one piece of sage advice that can solve every oxygen provider’s servicing issues, no “one size fits all” solution.

But there are software platforms that are lessening the burden on HME providers and allowing them to customize how they manage their concentrator and ventilator fleets. It’s ultimately up to each provider how they choose to allocate their staff’s time spent on fleet management, and whether or not they will choose to invest more funds into each machine.

Speeding up turnaround time, getting RMAs faster and getting better utilization of existing equipment is the chief goal of these software solutions. Some equipment servicing companies have indicated a focus on replacing parts for a flat rate in order to extend the lifecycle of a machine, especially when it comes to oxygen concentrators. All of these innovations can lead to lower costs for oxygen providers and higher profit margins in the long run.

As hospitals request more ventilators from providers to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become an even larger imperative for businesses to stay on top of their fleets and ensure that patients have access to the oxygen equipment they need. Optimizing the servicing process allows for providers to spend more time on the logistical hurdles of the coronavirus crisis.

POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Oxygen fleet management has historically been a headache for providers due to long wait times for return merchandise authorization (RMA) numbers and the inability to track equipment servicing in real-time.
  • The risks of damage to concentrators and ventilators is well-documented, with equipment suffering smoke, water and insect damage.
  • Recently developed software solutions are giving providers more control over where their equipment is sent and reducing the amount of time employees spend on tracking down machines.
  • There is no “one size fits all” approach for oxygen providers, which vary widely in offerings and size. But customizable solutions simplify seeing how much has been spent on a machine and whether or not scrap it.

LEARN MORE

To learn more about recent developments in remote monitoring technology, visit the HME Business Oxygen Solutions Center.

Comments

Add your Comment

Your Name:(optional)
Your Email:(optional)
Your Location:(optional)
Comment:
Please type the letters/numbers you see above
HME Business Podcast