by Rob Kent

Last year, O2 Concepts launched our Dynamic Network Analysis (DNA) platform, which connects all of our portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) over the Verizon network. With the first connected smart POCs, we are able to see firsthand how data helps providers with finding new avenues to improve sales, operating efficiency and standards of care.

Below are 10 ways connected oxygen concentrators make an impact. In the use cases, providers set up a dual-mode POC as a single solution for both in-home and ambulatory oxygen needs. The dual-mode POC is equipped with a 3G modem and GPS antenna, and calls in once a day to report all usage, location and performance information. Providers can access all equipment data from any Web-enabled device and setup automated email alerts for specific conditions.

1. COPD Readmits (ensuring correct usage): When working with hospital referral sources, ensuring proper oxygen usage during the first 30 days is a difference maker. Concentrators can be tagged for patients who are a readmit risk, and those machines can alert providers and caregivers if they are not used for 24 hours. As a 24/7 device, you can quickly identify patients not using their oxygen and intervene. Hospitals love to see that providers take steps to ensure proper use—ensuring usage as prescribed takes an important variable out of the risk model. Providers can set themselves apart by marketing this kind of connected solution.

2. Analyzing the Right Setup: Connecting a POC as a 24/7 device allows providers to monitor how much oxygen is used in the home versus ambulating. Delivering oxygen once a month is far less profitable than the non-delivery model. However, it is often the case that patients ambulate less as their disease progresses. Return on capital goes up if you can switch the setup to a less costly stationary machine and deliver a tank every few months. Monitoring ambulation over time means providers can ensure more expensive non-delivery equipment is targeting the right patients.

3. Identifying Equipment for Recovery: With a 24/7-connected concentrator, providers can identify patterns in location and usage that may indicate the need to recover equipment. For example, if the patient has a pattern of consistent oxygen use, then stops using oxygen for 10 days, it may indicate a hospitalization event or that the patient has passed away. A connected device can alert providers to pick up the machine and any additional equipment the patient may have. Doing this quickly can greatly improve the chance of recovery. In a managed care environment, it allows you to quickly bring the equipment back and redeploy it—minimizing your need to spend more capital.

4. Finding Lost Equipment: Prior to connected oxygen devices, recovery of lost equipment was difficult. With GPS and a Verizon 3G modem onboard, connected oxygen devices greatly increase the chance for recovery. Because it doesn't rely on a patient to sync to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the POC will connect independently. The next time it is under power, it will call in and give its current location.

5. Proactive Maintenance: The most common field failures and repairs for oxygen concentrators are low-purity or compressor issues. Connected POCs can give early indicators that a failure is imminent. Automated alerts can be set for purity trends approaching 87 percent or flow versus rpm inconsistencies that may indicate a need to overhaul the compressor. The difference between a scheduled stop versus a one-way, after-hours response can save providers more than $50 per occurrence.

6. Inventory Management: One benefit of connected devices is the ability to overlay and compare other information. In DNA, provider warehouse and branch locations are overlaid onto the same map as all oxygen concentrators. DNA will also assign any concentrators within 1,000 feet of a warehouse to that warehouse. This allows for better purchasing controls. Before ordering an additional concentrator, purchasing can check their branches for equipment and shift assets before spending more money.

7. Remote Troubleshooting: By connecting providers to daily performance information of all their concentrators and associated accessories, providers can now verify issues prior to sending a driver to the patient's home. Sometimes a simple hard reset can eliminate the need for a stop. In other cases, the quick replacement of a battery or AC power supply in the patient's home can remedy the issue without sending equipment back for repair.

8. Remote Software Updates: During the five-year life of an oxygen concentrator, the manufacturer will upgrade software several times, usually to improve performance, add capability and/or bolster it against potential failure conditions. Without a connected device, you can only upgrade software by pulling devices out of the field. With a connected device you can always update the latest version right there in the patient's home.

9. Remote Maintenance Checks: The obvious benefits of smart technology are eliminating manual data gathering. For example, documenting hours and purity for connected concentrators can be done with the click of a button. Often just the cost avoided for sending a driver each year pays for the activation and data costs.

10. Managing Accessories: Beyond the concentrator itself, smart POCs have the ability to report on their accessories. Indicators of AC, DC and battery performance can alert providers of replacement needs before a patient attempts to travel.

The journey into connected oxygen has been an exciting one so far. The more providers adapt and work with the technology, the more we are implementing feedback and improving the platform. This list will surely change in the coming months with increasing capabilities.