Health care consumers who ask the right questions and are active in making decisions save money and improve the quality of care they receive. But knowing the right questions to ask can be difficult in today’s complex health care system.
This page discusses different types of oxygen systems that are available and what questions to ask when looking for the system that best serves your needs.
Only patients with blood oxygen levels below critical levels will benefit from home oxygen. This means that the prescribing physician must make a determination of arterial oxygen level before oxygen can be prescribed.
Types of Oxygen Systems Available to You
About the size of a window air-conditioner, these devices run on electricity and do not need to be refilled. They effectively concentrate the oxygen already existing in the room air by eliminating the nitrogen component.
- Suitable for low-flow prescriptions (not exceeding 4-5 liters per minute)
- Easy to operate
- Requires regular service checks
A liquid system has a thermos-like tank (about 40″ tall) filled with liquid oxygen. When oxygen is liquid, 860 times as much oxygen can be stored in the same amount of space, at a much lower pressure, than high pressure tanks. The liquid oxygen is converted to gaseous oxygen within the reservoir for breathing. A smaller lightweight portable unit can be filled from the reservoir so you can take the oxygen with you when you leave home. Liquid oxygen is especially good for active people who need to be out of the home frequently.
Liquid systems are:
- Suitable for frequently mobile patients, and/or high-flow need patients (above 4-5 liters per minute)
- No electrical costs to patient
- Regular refills necessary
High Pressure Tanks
Available in various sizes, gaseous oxygen is pressurized and placed in steel or aluminum cylinders, then released through a regulator.
- Suitable for low oxygen usage (such as for emergency or occasional use, occasional portability)
- Can be stored for long periods of time
- Careful storage is important so that the cylinder will not fall over
Questions to Ask
Discuss with your doctor what kinds of activities are best for you. To what extent can you go out from home? By knowing what activities you can do, the doctor can decide whether a stationary or portable oxygen system is best for you.
Some tips about services you may require:
- Select a supplier that gives you 24-hour service without additional charges.
- If you are able to travel, look for a company with multiple locations. They should be able to assist you in getting oxygen outside of your normal service area.
- Make sure the supplier provides clear, written instructions regarding your use of the equipment. Do they have trained representatives to instruct you and to demonstrate the equipment after it is delivered?
- Ask for a complete breakdown of costs and verification of what your Medicare or insurance will cover. Make sure the supplier takes Medicare “assignment” (accepts what Medicare pays for services). After you have paid your yearly deductible, Medicare will pay 80%. All oxygen suppliers in the region get paid the same amount for the same prescription.
- Does the supplier have a clinician on staff to assist you if needed? Do they have a follow-up program that the doctor can order?
- Find out if the supplier provides regular routine equipment maintenance. How often do they service their equipment? Do they provide you with information on how to keep it clean? Do they provide the disposable tubing needed on a regular basis? Are there any additional charges for this tubing?
You have the freedom of choice. If you can’t resolve problems with your current oxygen supplier, look under “OXYGEN” in the Yellow Pages and the nearest Lincare location which can better serve your needs.