Portable Oxygen: A User's Perspective

Oxygen Providers

About O2 Providers Costs Away From Home
Selecting a Provider What Other Users Say
Is Your Provider Accredited?

Portable Oxygen: A User's Perspective
Oxygen Providers

The information here provided is for educational purposes only and it is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your own physician or healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 

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About Oxygen Providers

Users covered under Medicare Part B must select a single oxygen provider to arrange all their oxygen needs. Users covered by medical insurance must choose an approved oxygen provider. Users contemplating using liquid oxygen must choose from among the oxygen providers who support liquid oxygen. If you live in a small community you may find your choices narrowed by the above to one or two providers. Most oxygen providers are firms that have long histories as medical suppliers. Their basic role is to provide the medical hardware that doctors prescribe for their patients, including crutches, hospital beds, and bedpans. Of all they provide, portable oxygen equipment is the most challenging for them. All their drivers and customer service personnel must have a basic understanding of oxygen therapy. They must have on staff a respiratory therapist (RT) who understands how to meet a patient’s requirements with oxygen. 

Just like your physician, your oxygen provider must be an approved provider of medical services. Whoever is your primary insurer, Medicare or your insurance company, your provider must be approved by them. 

As dedicated as each oxygen provider may be, you will find subtle differences that may help you choose the one who meets your individual requirements.

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Selecting a Provider

Before you select a provider, you should interview several and get satisfactory answers to questions like these: 
  • How long have you been in business in this town?
  • Do you have branches in other towns, particularly towns where I have family? 
  • Do you provide both liquid and compressed portable oxygen systems?
  • How do you select a system (liquid vs. compressed and continuous flow vs. pulsating flow) for a patient?
  • How often do you deliver oxygen to a home?
  • How often does your RT make home visits?
  • How quickly do you respond to emergency calls—on weekdays and weekends?
  • How quickly do you replace defective equipment?
  • Do you arrange for oxygen services when I travel?
  • How many branches does your company have and where are they located?
Ask about preventive maintenance on the equipment left in your care.Your provider should be able to tell you how often your concentrator is checked for correct flow and oxygen concentration, and how often it is replaced for refurbishing. You should also ask about preventive maintenance on portables, reservoirs, and other rental or purchased equipment.

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Is Your Provider Accredited?

Probably the most important question to ask your proposed provider is  about accreditation. An accredited company is one that is responsible to its patients, employees, stockholders, and community. Congress requires mandatory accreditation in Medicare reform legislation of 2003. As of that year, 60 percent of health care companies were not accredited. What is more disturbing is 56 percent of those not accredited did not plan to become accredited in 2004 (HomeCare Magazine, December 2003).

Accredited companies will display their "Certification of Accreditation" prominently. The certificate will be issued by 
JCAHO or one of several other accreditation agencies, including CHAP, or ACHC. You can search JCAHO by state or zip code for oxygen providers or scroll through the list of those accredited by CHAP.

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Costs Away From Home

If you travel by air or motor car, you should ask about the cost of services when you are on travel. Most oxygen companies with several branches will provide you with the same services at these offices that you receive at your local office at no additional charge. Independent oxygen providers may be able to provide no-cost services on a case-by-case basis. 

When you travel by air, you may incur two costs for oxygen--one for oxygen before reaching or upon leaving the aircraft, and the other, while aboard the aircraft. For more information see the section Flying with O2.

When you travel by motor vehicle, you can carry all of your oxygen and oxygen equipment with you, have all of your oxygen needs met along the way, or a combination of the two. To learn more about ths see the section on Motoring with O2.

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What Other Users Say

Listen to what some oxygen users say about how their providers handle service for patients on travel. 

Mary from Louisana writes: 

We recently took a trip to visit our daughter in North Carolina. We called our local provider who alerted a sister company near our daughter's home that we were coming. We notified that company of our arrival and all the oxygen and equipment was there when we arrived. We had excellent service at no extra charge.
Charlotte from San Diego writes:
I use to travel full-time in a motor home. At the time I was on liquid oxygen and carried my reservoir and portable tanks in the motor home. I also carried my oxygen prescription and a list of the branches of my O2 homecare company. When it came time to refill, I call a nearby branch a couple of days in advance. Sometimes we drove to their offices for fill ups at no additional cost. Other times they would deliver to our campsite for a charge of $50 which was billed back to my local branch.
Bill W. from San Diego writes: 
I'm on O2 24/7 and have been for several years. I just got back to California from a three-week trip to the East Coast. My home O2 provider arranged to have tanks and a concentrator delivered to my son's house in Virginia before I arrived. They also arranged to meet me at the airport to deliver 2 M-6 tanks on the plane so I could unhook from the airline O2 and get off. Wishing to sightsee up and down the East Coast, I loaded the tanks and concentrator in the car and took off. When I ran out of full tanks, I stopped at a branch office in Raleigh/Durham to replace them. There was no charge for any of these services. 
Expect to pay a surcharge for extraordinary service, such as meeting you at an airport, or service conducted outside of normal business hours. For more information see the sections Preparing for Travel and The Cost of Travel under Motoring With O2 .

Breathin' Easy is a publication that lists providers by state and town and identifies providers by airport location. (Breathin’ Easy Travel Guide , 225 Daisy Dr., Napa, CA 94558, 707-252-9333, http://www.breathineasy.com/).

© 2001 Copyright 
Peter M. Wilson, Ph.D. 

You have permission to print this document for your personal use. You also have permission to print, copy, and distribute this document to oxygen users and their caregivers. 
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Last Modified: December 26, 2013

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