Answers from industry experts
by Frank Lazzaro
May 27, 2016
SimplyGo POCSimplyGo POC

Philips Respironics

Frank Lazzaro, Director of Global Product
Management, Home Respiratory Care
philips.com

What makes your products stand out in the industry?
LAZZARO: The Philips Respironics oxygen product line includes home oxygen filling systems, stationary oxygen concentrators and portable oxygen concentrators (POC). We design our technology to be durable and quiet, so that patients can feel comfortable with their oxygen therapy and easily incorporate it into their daily lives.

Where are the trends in the oxygen market this year?
LAZZARO: An important trend is the frequency with which patients and their home caregivers are seeking information online about their care and medical device options. This is especiallly true for POCs. With insurance companies increasingly recognizing the high costs associated with managing COPD patients, we see a strong trend toward keeping patients active, mobile and out of the hospital. POCs are contributing to this effort, enabling COPD patients to maintain their lifestyles.

Where does Philips plan to innovate this year?
LAZZARO: Connecting the patient to their care ecosystem via technology has many benefits in terms of cost and quality of care. Innovation in this area contributes to improving clinical outcomes by enabling patients to remain active and helping to reduce the total cost of care. Reducing the cost of care can be accomplished in many different ways, however a reliable device is probably the most important

Do you have any new products to share with us?
LAZZARO: The SimplyGo Mini is a portable oxygen concentrator that we developed to address the needs of the growing population of patients who are being diagnosed earlier and lead more active lifestyles. It is small and light, making it easy for patients to take with them wherever they go. We believe it is extremely important to provide patients with solutions that enable them to live the lives they desire.

How can HME businesses be more successful this year?
LAZZARO: Yesterday's model most likely won't be successful tomorrow, so it is necessary for homecare providers to be open to evolving and adapting their businesses to the rapidly changing health care environment. Make good use of new technology and focus on the new models emerging from accountable care organizations, population health companies and new health care regulations.

For HME providers looking to improve their bottom lines, how important are customer service, customer education and overall portable oxygen product knowledge?
LAZZARO: Customer service and education is extremely important. Educated patients who feel confident in the technology they are using ask fewer questions. If they feel they understand the technology, they ultimately have increased confidence in their DME.

AirSep Line of POCsAirSep Line of POCs

CAIRE Inc.

George Coppola, Director of Marketing
chartindustries.com

What are your company's most prominent product lines?
COPPOLA: The CAIRE portable oxygen concentrator family offers the best and widest selection of devices on the market to cover multiple respiratory disease states and prescriptions. Our product line includes the world's smallest oxygen delivery device, the AirSep Focus.

What trends do you see in the industry this year?
COPPOLA: The use and application of telemedicine is a growing trend in the industry, and CAIRE is responding to this through the development of the CAIRE Asset Tracking Project. The project will help providers proactively manage their fleet of portable and stationary oxygen concentrators, alert them to where and when conditions need prompt attention and help them better manage repairs.

Do you anticipate any challenges in 2016?
COPPOLA: The new CMS policies impact all avenues of respiratory care, and competitive bidding is clearly the biggest concern. The same challenges and concerns exist in the re-compete. For manufacturers, the challenge is simple: Take cost out of the product in exchange for performance that could potentially impact patient treatment or focus on the delivery of quality treatment options. It is imperative patients are provided with reliable products and CAIRE is committed to providing high-quality products that meet the industry needs at competitive prices.

Do you have any new products coming out this year?
COPPOLA: CAIRE has multiple new products in development right now, all designed to meet the demands of the market—more oxygen output, lighter weight and longer battery life, just to name a few.

How can providers improve their businesses this year?
COPPOLA: Home medical equipment is progressing through a typical market life cycle, requiring providers to become more efficient operators. They must focus on partnering with financially stable and reliable manufacturers that put quality first to ensure product reliability, and work with them to develop and adopt technology solutions to increase asset velocity and improve asset management.

Where do customer service and patient education fit in?
COPPOLA: Customer service and patient education are imperative for a provider's success. Providers must be trained effectively to address any issues quickly so as to not adversely affect patient treatment. Patient education is also very important and is an area where CAIRE is committed. An educated patient will lead to better treatment outcomes.

OxyGo POCOxyGo POC

Applied Home Healthcare Equipment

Laura Frederick, Manager of Customer Care
apllied-inc.com

Please briefly describe your company's product line related to the oxygen market. What makes your products stand out in the industry?
FREDERICK: Applied has a 23-year history of driving provider costs down with innovative products and services like the OxyGo POC, OxyFill medical oxygen refilling systems, FlexRegs all-in-one oxygen regulators with 0.5 to 15 lpm settings), OxySafe oxygen firestops and online and on-site regulatory and compliance training.

How are new technologies impacting the market overall, as well as results for individual customers?
FREDERICK: At Applied, we believe providers can still thrive in their oxygen business with non-delivery models like OxyGo and new business opportunities like OxyFill oxygen refilling systems. Both systems dramatically reduce provider costs and expand opportunities. Financing is readily available and makes deploying a fleet of OxyGos or turnkey OxyFill installations a breeze including regulatory, accreditation and compliance issues.

Are there any trends in terms of what providers are offering recently?
FREDERICK: We believe there will be more providers moving to non- and reduced-delivery models to control costs and increase profitability, especially with the new round of reimbursement cuts.

What is one way your company is staying competitive this year?
FREDERICK: We introduced a host of new products, services and concepts all designed to drive provider costs down and efficiencies up, including opening new provider opportunities. Examples include the OxyGo POC non-delivery model, lowering medical oxygen costs through lower training costs and better compliance and OxyFill medical oxygen filling systems and training.

How can HMEs stay current with modern business models that work?
FREDERICK: Many providers stick with tanks, believing that they have an investment and they must utilize it. Providers should look at these assets as sunk costs and invest in the non-delivery model, which reduces costs and increases service areas. Lower costs and more patients is a great strategy.

Do you feel that an HME's relationship with their customer is an important part of their business?
FREDERICK: Customer service, education, and oxygen product knowledge are the best indicator of future provider profitability. However, providers can't do it alone—they have to partner with quality suppliers who have a culture of customer service, education and product knowledge. It's no secret that Applied is well known for these attributes.

DNA TechnologyDNA Technology

O2 Concepts

Rob Kent, CEO
o2-concepts.com

Tell us about your company. What kinds of products are you known for?
KENT: O2 Concepts manufactures and distributes the Oxlife Independence portable oxygen concentrator. With a five-year warranty and proven 24/7 reliability, the Oxlife Independence offers providers a better means for non-delivery. With our Dynamic Network Analysis (DNA) platform, all of our POCs are connected to the Verizon network allowing providers to monitor usage, performance and location data to better manage patients and equipment.

Do you see any trends in your industry?
KENT: We see providers using POCs more often to manage discharges from hospitals. Accommodating discharges can be a complex effort for providers. It is greatly simplified by sending the patient home with a dual-mode POC (with both pulse and continuous flow) as a solution. The equipment can be issued at the hospital by a liaison. Set-ups can then be done on a regularly scheduled stop.

How will competitive bidding affect your industry this year, and how will you respond to those changes?
KENT: Competitive bidding will put more and more pressure on providers to work smarter and look beyond cheap equipment. A key focus of our Dynamic Network Analysis (DNA) platform is to help providers develop remote fleet-management capability. Connected, smart, non-delivery equipment allows you to proactively manage patients and equipment. Remote troubleshooting can eliminate unnecessary stops. GPS can eliminate lost equipment and identify patients moving out of the service area.

What is one way your company plans to stay competitive this year?
KENT: We are urging providers to understand the value of a five-year warranty. In an environment where most patients do not reach the 36-month cap, equipment is often redeployed to multiple patients so equipment can often generate revenue for 48 to 60 months. Reliable equipment fleets with strong warranties are going to greatly reduce costs in the future.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing that HME and other health care providers can do to increase revenue and remain competitive in 2016?
KENT: One often-overlooked area is that POCs drive accessory sales. Spare batteries, desktop chargers and soft goods can be lucrative revenue additions. For companies with Medicare contracts and retail capability, the retail advantage of oxygen accessories needs to be strongly evaluated. There is not a lot of upselling with home-filling equipment and E-cylinders.

How should HMEs interact with their customers?
KENT: The information and education provided to the patient is critical to the success of the product. Patients need to be educated on the capabilities of each POC offering and directed toward the POC that best fits their stationary and ambulatory oxygen needs. This would apply to both the Medicare service market as well as retail sales.