Technological advances in oxygen focus on keeping consumers on the go and help providers to offset cuts in reimbursement. Here Home Health Products interviews two experts — one regarding home filling and one regarding oxygen in flight. Are you up to speed on the latest technological advances?
An interview with Kees Regeling, president, DeVilbiss Respiratory Product Division at Sunrise Medical, Longmont, Colo.:
Q: How does the iFill help providers offset service costs?
A: The big savings are a result of a more operationally efficient business model. With iFill, providers no longer need to deliver portable oxygen cylinders to their ambulatory patients. Instead, patients can easily and quickly fill their own cylinders at home.
Q: How does the iFill benefit end-users?
A: For ambulatory oxygen patients, iFill is really about freedom and independence. When you give qualified patients the opportunity to control their own oxygen supply, they are empowered to live a more active and spontaneous lifestyle without fear of running low on oxygen. An M6 cylinder can be filled in a little over an hour and, when combined with our PulseDose® conserver, gives patients up to six hours of ambulatory oxygen.
iFill was designed to be convenient and easy for patients. Partially filled cylinders can be easily topped off, and the iFill will automatically shut off when filling is complete.
Q: Do you think home-filling is a trend that will continue in the future?
A: Absolutely; home-filling is a perfect solution for providers who are dealing with a changing reimbursement climate as well as for patients who want freedom and independence.
Q: How do you educate end-users so they know home-filling exists?
We believe that the best way to educate the public about iFill is to support our customers with strong, turnkey marketing material. To that end, we have produced a provider marketing package that we call the iProsper Kit. It includes television commercials, print ads, post cards, referral marketing presentations and patient education brochures. It is important that end-users know about this technology, but even more important that we work with our customers to help them make the transition to iFill as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Q: Is Sunrise planning any portable devices for in-flight travel?
Yes. We have an excellent product in the final stages of production and moving into field testing. The iGo Portable concentrator will be another big win for patient independence and freedom. It is lightweight and small enough to fit under an airline seat. iGo will be released in the latter part of 2007.
Oxygen in Flight
Next up: An Interview with J. Daryl Risinger, Inogen, Goleta, Calif.
Q: I know the Inogen One was one of the first devices approved by the FAA. Are more end-users now aware that they have this option for flight?
A: The FAA signed SFAR106 in July 2005 with an August 2005 implementation date. In November of 2005, both Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines almost simultaneously became the first commercial carriers to accept the Inogen One onboard their flights. Because all our devices met some stringent requirements for minimizing electronic emissions, the Inogen One was the only device permitted on those airlines for some time. Over time, the vast majority of airlines have created policies to allow POCs onboard their flights. This change can be attributed both to the industry’s open dialogue to educate the airlines on the safety of POCs and passengers using POCs and aggressively requesting they be able to use their Inogen One during flight. Each airline we work with has demonstrated a desire to make travel for the oxygen-dependent traveler easier. In this case, the snowball has been pushed off the top of the hill, and the issue continues to rapidly gain tremendous awareness and adoption rates.
Q: For end-users who look at flying with oxygen as a logistical or paperwork nightmare, how would you advise them?
A: Traveling with a POC virtually eliminates all the hassles to which you referred. I can simplify the optimal experience into four steps. First and most important, ensure the airline on which you’re flying permits the use of POCs during flight. Next, inform the airline ticketing or reservation agent of your intent to use a POC during flight. Third, ensure a signed physician statement (required by the FAA) is kept with the POC. Copies of the physician statement and other important information can be found on www.inogen.net/faa. The site also contains links to the Web sites and oxygen policies of the major airlines. Lastly, ensure you have sufficient batteries to last the duration of the trip, plus a conservative estimate to account for any unanticipated delays. Keeping these four things in mind will give passengers the greatest opportunity for uninterrupted, unencumbered and hassle-free travel.
Q: What airlines have approved the Inogen One? Are the requirements for airlines different depending on the airline?
A: The great news for those flying with oxygen is that it’s now a long list! Go to www.inogen.net/faa for the latest list of airlines who will accept the Inogen One. The list grows regularly as new airlines adopt a POC policy. The requirements do vary by airline. Because the FAA ruling was voluntary in nature, the airlines have the ability to create policies which best fit their infrastructure and policies and procedures with other assistive devices. This means that while one airline leaves calculating the number of batteries required for a flight from the U.S. to Europe (up to the user), others may specify the number of batteries for any given flight.
Inogen continues to reach out to airlines on behalf of our customers to educate, train and assist airlines in the creation of POC policies. So if a passenger doesn’t see their airline listed, I’d encourage them to contact our customer care team. Sometimes knowing a passenger is planning a trip on a given airline provides a needed catalyst for the creation of a policy within that airline.
Q: If an end-user is currently using an oxygen device that they cannot fly with, how easy is it for them to switch?
A: Switching is easier than you might imagine. As greater numbers of HME providers purchase equipment to reduce operational expenses, a patient is much more likely today to find a provider who has an Inogen One or other POC in stock. A phone call to the patient’s provider in advance of the trip will determine product availability. If the provider doesn’t have the desired POC in inventory, there are now online resources for renting POCs on a weekly basis. Companies like www.oxygentogo.com and www.aeromedic.com specialize in travel oxygen and will rent product on a weekly basis, shipping to the patient’s home in advance of the trip and providing great phone support for setup and use. Travelers quickly learn they can travel with as much ease as you or I. And when they find out they can use the device 24/7 in place of their current collection of cylinders and stationary concentrator, a staggering percentage of travelers using a POC ultimately make their change permanent.
What are the benefits of the Inogen One?
A: First and foremost, the Inogen One is the first oxygen therapy device designed and manufactured to serve all the needs of an ambulatory oxygen patient. At less than 10 pounds, it meets the 5th LTOT consensus conference definition for ambulatory oxygen. At 38 dBA, the device is quiet enough to use in any environment, even a movie theater. And as a reimbursement coding pioneer, the Inogen One receives both stationary and portable reimbursement. For the patient, the product provides what its users refer to as perpetual motion. This means they are able to travel anytime, anywhere, without the traditional tethers of oxygen therapy. For the HME provider, the Inogen One brings technology which reduces the operational expenses associated with regular deliveries and the incremental costs of arranging patient travel. And there’s something to be said for the market advantage gained by providing the best available equipment to meet the ever-increasing demands of both patients and referral sources. Providers who use the Inogen One have achieved a competitive advantage through the adoption of innovative technology.
Q: What are the portability benefits?
A: It’s all about simplifying oxygen therapy for patients and providers alike. For patients, imagine being able to drive from Pennsylvania to Arizona for the winter without ever requiring the refilling of a cylinder. The ability to recapture spontaneity in life is immeasurable and indescribable. We receive letters, e-mails, pictures and phone calls from patients who have traveled to the Great Wall of China, the canals of Venice, the Coliseum in Rome and archeological digs in the Middle East. Each would tell you they never would have been able to make their journey without the Inogen One. But I always have to catch myself and remember there are trips every bit as important to the patient who is using the device to visit a friend’s house for the afternoon, eat dinner in a restaurant on a moment’s notice or simply never have to count and load tanks into their trunk before leaving home.
Do you think the client base for oxygen users is changing?
A: There’s no question (that there are) increasing numbers of oxygen users looking for a different type of therapy. But I wouldn’t restrict it to those looking for portable/travel options. As the median age of the oxygen user decreases and the baby boomers diagnosed with COPD become symptomatic and require oxygen therapy, their demands for independence will be unparalleled compared to what the industry has experienced to date. Patients are beginning to have greater participation in the management of their disease, are more involved in their therapy, require therapy to meet their lifestyles, and will want the best available technology.