If you supplement your breathing with home oxygen therapy, are you satisfied with your equipment?
According to Alex Bah, a registered respiratory therapist at InspiAIR, many patients believe a heavy oxygen tank is their only alternative.
“A lot of users are not aware that they have the freedom to choose an oxygen vendor that can meet their needs,” he said. This includes the need for a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) instead of a tank. With a lightweight, compact POC, it’s easier to enjoy an active, mobile lifestyle—whether that means travelling, visiting friends, or participating in your favourite hobbies.
What’s a Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC)?
A POC is a device used in home oxygen therapy.
Healthcare professionals prescribe this therapy to treat hypoxemia—also called low blood oxygen—which may be caused by certain medical conditions. Without enough oxygen in their bloodstreams, people may have headaches and trouble breathing. In a worst-case scenario, hypoxemia is fatal.
Depending on why people need oxygen treatment, they may use a concentrator or tank for weeks, months, or the rest of their life. If you’re an oxygen patient, you may have been told to use your equipment 24 hours per day, including at night while you sleep. On the other hand, maybe you need supplemental oxygen only in certain circumstances, such as while exercising.
Oxygen patients with POCs usually combine them with stationary oxygen concentrators, for use while they’re at home. “I like to use the analogy that your stationary device is a landline,” said Bah. “It won’t work unless it’s plugged in. A portable unit is like your cell phone. It has a battery, you can take it anywhere you go, and it works as long as you have the battery charged.”
The Benefits of Portable Oxygen
The portable oxygen concentrator’s biggest strength, said Bah, is its rechargeable battery that lasts up to 13 hours on some units.
“As long as you have a reliable power source or a full battery, the oxygen will never run out. If you’re out and about and you’re low on battery, you can charge it virtually anywhere. You can charge it in a waiting room. You can charge it in the car.” He said patients can also charge their POC while it’s in use, including while they’re sleeping.
Bah said InspiAIR’s lightest POC is just over two and a half pounds, while an oxygen tank can weigh as much as fifteen pounds. Also, as he put it, “You don’t have to rely on a delivery person to come by every other week or every three days to refill your tanks.” Therefore, using a POC “adds a lot of independence and flexibility to the patient’s lifestyle.”
With a POC, said Bah, you can “go out and about in the community, go see loved ones, and you always have that oxygen readily available for you instead of relying on, ‘Oh, I need four tanks for my Thanksgiving dinner with my family that I’m seeing in the other part of town because I have to think about the drive over and the time I’m going to spend there.’”
So, why don’t all eligible patients use portable oxygen concentrators?
Patient-Centred Oxygen Care
Bah of InspiAIR said that the vast majority of oxygen patients can safely use a POC. (A qualified medical professional can assess your eligibility.) However, “most people who are on oxygen don’t necessarily get one” from their provider.
When asked why not, Bah said POCs cost more up front than tanks do. “It’s easier for [other oxygen providers] to bottle oxygen [in cylinders or liquid oxygen tanks] than to make an investment in portable units to give to their clients.
“We’re from a different philosophy. We make that initial investment with the idea of patient care first. It’s a patient-care-centred approach to providing oxygen.”
Getting the Best Oxygen Treatment Alternative for Your Needs
If you’re on oxygen, a hospital or a respirologist may have referred you to an oxygen provider. Bah said an oxygen patient also may contact any provider of their choosing—for example, if they’re unhappy with their current service or equipment. “You can actually reach out to any company at any point during the therapy and change companies free of charge.”
You may not need to pay anything because OHIP covers the costs of home oxygen therapy, as do some private medical insurance plans. From OHIP, you should be able to receive either full or 75% coverage, depending on your situation. This coverage includes periodic updates to your equipment—for example, as technology evolves or your condition changes.
Win Back Your Freedom and Independence
Speaking about InspiAIR, Bah said, “We’ve impacted a lot of people who were unhappy with their old providers, and they weren’t able to do the things they once did or wanted to do.”
POCs are FAA-approved for use on airplanes. “We want our oxygen users to have that peace of mind,” said Bah, “that they can do the travel they always wished to do.”
Not planning to fly anywhere? POCs clear the way for you to live your life to the fullest, in whatever way you choose. As Bah put it, “We believe that every patient should have freedom and independence when it comes to oxygen.”
The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. If you or someone you know is seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment, please consult the appropriate medical professional or healthcare provider.
Photo at top of page: Alex Bah, Respiratory Therapist at InspiAIR, waves to a satisfied oxygen patient