Manufacturers are providing patients with more options and more freedom to integrate oxygen therapy into their lives, a fact that improves compliance, outcomes, and quality of life.

The medical oxygen concentrator has been one of the most notable breakthrough developments in the long-term oxygen therapy support. There is a quantum improvement in the oxygen concentrator technology. Reliability has been a concern in the past, but the newest generation of products is more dependable and opens the door for a shift away from the traditional homecare model of oxygen delivery.

New portable oxygen concentrators represent a shift away from both stationary systems and inefficient, heavy, and impractical portable devices, which can be used as multipurpose devices.

Leading manufacturers now offer products in smaller, lighter packages that are more powerful and more clinically and operationally robust. The huge jump in technology is illustrated by the effectiveness of the manufacturers by developing less than 10-pound battery-operated concentrators. Some of them have even re-engineered the unit down to a 2-pound device.

Battery life is one tradeoff, and development continues on batteries that last longer and weigh less. Battery developments from other markets, such as cell phones and laptops, are driving economies of scale and could benefit oxygen concentrators in the future.

Technology Trends

The most recent offerings in oxygen delivery products are continuing the industry's emphasis on smaller, lighter, and more reliable technology. Some devices even offer features that have never been seen before, such as the market's first fully integrated stationary and portable oxygen concentrator (POC) system. Together, manufacturers are providing patients with more options and more freedom to integrate oxygen therapy into their lives, a fact that improves compliance, outcomes, and quality of life.

Pulse-dose technology. In portable oxygen concentrators market, a pulse-dose system finds more application due to its light weight and more lasting battery life of up to 8 hours.

A pulse-dose system delivers oxygen in fixed increments, thus lowering the demand for oxygen compared to a continuous-flow machine. In doing so, the technology prevents oxygen from being wasted and increases efficiency of an oxygen concentrator, which is particularly important in portable oxygen concentrators that have limited storage. Many patients combine a continuous-flow machine at home and maybe at night with a pulse-delivery portable oxygen concentrator, if out during the day.

Continuous-flow technology. Continuous flow is required by any oxygen user who is titrating oxygen into their CPAP or BiPAP therapy. These oxygen machines range, in size between 10 and 20 pounds and provide a range of 2-3 liter per minute of continuous-flow oxygen. The heavier continuous-flow portable oxygen concentrators feature wheeled carts or integrated wheels and a handle to make portability a breeze; the smaller continuous-flow portable oxygen concentrators come with a carry bag to assist with portability.

Stationary concentrators. Despite the projected increase in the demand for portable oxygen concentrators, manufacturers are ensuring trouble-free, long-performance, no-sound, light-weight, and high-purity (up to 95 percent) stationary oxygen concentrators, which are perfect to be used by single or two patients. The advanced concentrators are equipped with additional features including oxygen-purity indicators, nebulizers, pressure alarms, and many more.

Challenges and Opportunities

Growing geriatric population base, increasing tobacco consuming population, rising air pollution levels leading to COPD, growing prominence of home healthcare concept, and increasing number of patients requiring ambulation are spurring the demand for oxygen concentrators. Non-homecare services, mainly used in healthcare centers and hospitals are also offering lucrative opportunities owing majorly to the ever-increasing patient volume in these facilities.

Moreover, requirement of continuous supply of oxygen during illness or diagnosis is fuelling the growth of portable oxygen concentrators over the years. As the demand for portable oxygen concentrators is increasing, there has been an upsurge in the entry of new competitors thus leading to an increase in the availability of low-price and high-quality devices.

Despite evidence on the importance of oxygen therapy and the existence of suitable technologies, weak health infrastructure in the country, lack of access to electrical power supplies, and trained maintenance personnel continue to be the challenge for the market.

A Changing Business

Portable oxygen concentrator technology has been instantiated many times over, but in a most compelling manner by Inogen as the Inogen oxygen concentrator, which represents a technological breakthrough. The Inogen One G3 is a complete departure from current mainstream technologies. It represents a shift away from standard large, bulky, stationary concentrator systems and inefficient, heavy, and impractical portable devices. This transformation presents a new opportunity for people who make PSA (pressure swing adsorption) oxygen equipment. Economies of scale and a new distribution modality leveraging homecare services are set to change the medical oxygen industry. Home delivery markets tend to be evaporating.

Philips medical chronic disease equipment is able to address market trends. Invacare has been a continuing market leader in articulating the benefits of homecare. Home oxygen markets have been predicated on a dealer infrastructure. These dealers get reimbursed for regular deliveries of liquid oxygen used for supplemental oxygen so the patient can go out, buy groceries, go to the movies, and visit family for a short time. The advent of reliable, inexpensive portable home oxygen concentrators has changed the market dynamics significantly. No longer do patients need regular deliveries of liquid oxygen for supplemental purposes so the patient can go out. Now, the patient just uses one device at home and while out of the home. The economics of the medical oxygen market has been changing for a long time.

The private insurers that follow their lead have been resisting paying for supplemental liquid oxygen because the price of truck rolls is too high. With lowered reimbursement, the dealer distribution network that has been in place for many years is no longer tenable. This is a dramatic shift in the home medical oxygen market. The move from a primary delivery with a cost structure that accounts for truck rolls to a portable device market is set to bring dramatic changes to the industry. For vendors that have relied on the distribution network and financing the distribution network, their hold on the market has shifted.

The biggest drivers of the next steps in the evolution of oxygen technology and POCs are very much like many other technology companies. Companies are constantly looking to improve the performance, quality, clinical efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of the devices.

Future oxygen technologies will continue to be focused on clinically sound therapy but may incorporate much more software and intelligence in the design. In a future clinical world of evidence-based care, compliance, and outcomes, data will continue to gain importance. Concurrently, as providers face higher operational costs and lower payments, the technology will need to be more intelligent to eliminate unnecessary and costly non-value-added activities.


 

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