Category Archives: Respiratory

And my oxygen concentrator is beeping . . . !!!

I’ve been running the after-hours phone calls for Howard’s for over a decade now and have heard about every phone call possible. I won’t spare you all of the details of most calls but I can tell you what the most common call complaint is, my oxygen is not working.

Oxygen Tubing: The most common source for Howard's after-hours phone calls.
Oxygen Tubing: The most common source for Howard’s after-hours phone calls.

Here is the question, why?  You have a perfectly good oxygen concentrator and all of a sudden it stops working. Now, in most of these instances it continues to run but it will start to beep telling you something is wrong with it.  Here are the top three reasons why it has stopped:

  1. The main reason a concentrator stops producing oxygen is kinked tubing. Think of a garden hose. When you kink it, it inhibits how much water comes through the hose.  The same happens with oxygen tubing and this is the case with about 80% of our phone calls.  The telltale sign this is wrong with the one’s oxygen concentrator is everything else runs fine and frequently there will not be a warning signal as frequently as soon as other problems.  You know this is the problem when the ball on the concentrator drops down below zero.
  2. The second most common problem with an oxygen concentrator is a beeping concentrator.  When it beeps, there can be a number of reasons why and the beep just means that something is not running properly.  This used to be Howard’s number one problem.  This moved down to our fourth most common problem once we started being very proactive in changing them. The manufacture for Respironics says they have to be changed once every two years but it is our policy to change them every six months or every time they come into our store because an affordable filter is cheaper than a 2am service call.
  3. Next is the beeping concentrator because of a patient or caregiver moving it too close to a wall.  This is primarily a problem with our Respironics Everflow since it has a flat back.  It can be moved directly against walls or drapes which can then block intake flow.  As a result the concentrator will then not be able to have air flow in.

This are the big three reasons your concentrator may beep. There are a few others but are rare.  We have had an occasional blown motor (typically after 20,000 hours), the sitz beds will get clogged (in this case the concentrator will beep but the purity will drop and it will need to be rebuilt), and there are a few other reasons too.

As always, make sure you do business with a local oxygen company that maintains a 24-hour on-call number and does business in your town.  Nothing is worse than having an oxygen problem and having to wait for the company to “ship” your replacement to you as is the case with certain companies.

If you have any questions about your oxygen service, give us a call at Howard’s: 654-9899

Erik Mickelson

Team Lead for Howard’s

KVH in Ellensburg Discontinues Home Respiratory Program

Howard’s found out about two weeks ago that KVH (Kittitas Valley Healthcare) was going to discontinue their home respiratory program. Since Howard’s is a hometown and locally owned company, this broke our heart to hear their home respiratory program was closing their doors after serving their community for over twenty years.

Howard’s currently served Kittitas Valley once a week so we are planning on increasing our service to Kittitas County with daily deliveries Monday through Friday to compensate.  Here is their official press-release that was released earlier today.

We are also planning on hiring a full-time operations technician to be based out of Ellensburg.  If you know of someone who would be a great team member have them apply at Howards through our link on Craig’s List.

If you have any questions, please give us a call toll-free at 800-469-7131.


Team Lead for Howard’s Medical


What do you look for in an oxygen provider in the Yakima Valley?

This is our standard concentrator for home use by Philips Respironics.
This is our standard concentrator for home use by Philips Respironics.

As I touched on last week in my MedTrade blog, the medical supply world is changing at the pace of a bullet. We are currently hiring two new team members here at Howard’s this week (click to apply) and I love talking to potential team members for our team. We have an intensive interview process to join our team. For someone to join our team, he/she must go through five different interviews! Unfortunately this makes it slower for us to hire, especially when we need bodies immediately to help answer the phone. The good news is when we do hire someone, we end up with team members that stay at Howard’s for the long haul.

Yesterday while interviewing a potential new team member who had also interviewed at one of our competitors, she mentioned to me that our competitor does not do 24-hour oxygen patients, only nocturnal. I want to lay our cards on the table here to bring you into the world of leading a DME. If you or a family member is an oxygen patient, the store that supplies the medical supply is reimbursed anywhere between $90-210/month for the base concentrator depending on insurance and allowable. This base fee ONLY covers the concentrator which is the machine that makes oxygen in your home.

For our patients that only need oxygen at night (we call these patients nocturnal use only), this is all he/she needs. However, over time, most patients move into a category where they need oxygen 24/7 and in these instances also need portable oxygen if they go to church, to the store, or do anything out of the house. For these patients they would need either a portable oxygen concentrator (battery operated poc, see picture below) or aluminum tanks to run their errands.

All insurances also reimburse for portable oxygen. There is a major problem though and this should concern everyone in the industry: PORTALBE OXYGEN IS ONLY REINBURSED AT BETWEEN $25-60/MONTH!

The reason I write this in all caps is the reimbursement for portable is below almost all supplier’s cost. The way companies like Howard’s and other respiratory providers stay in business is we make a higher profit on the home concentrator unit which makes up for our patients we lose money on with our POC’s and tanks. At Howard’s , we also emphasize efficiency and try to predict which patients needs oxygen ahead of time. Last, we also go the extra mile with a lot of patients until they learn how to use their oxygen efficiently. We had one patient two years in a row need emergency oxygen delivered to their house on Easter. We waived the emergency charge because this was a planning error but we wanted this patient to be able to attend their local family gathering.

We carry three different kinds of POC's as well as aluminum tanks.  Call us to talk about which kind of portable option is best for you and your lifestyle.
We carry three different kinds of POC’s as well as aluminum tanks. Call us to talk about which kind of portable option is best for you and your lifestyle.

Here are a few things you need to know about home and portable oxygen:

  1. Even if you only need nocturnal oxygen, make sure your supplier you work with does both nocturnal as well as portable oxygen. Even if you are nocturnal use now, there may be a day in the future when you need 24/7 service and you need to make sure your supplier can take care of your needs.
  2. Make sure your supplier has a respiratory therapist on staff. Some suppliers make you call into a RT out of the area and do a phone consultation. Howard’s has two RT’s on staff and sometimes one needs more than a phone consultation and a RT needs to listen to breathing sounds and report back to your physician.
  3. Make sure your oxygen company has a 24/7 number they attend to after hours. We do! Even test it (preferably at 10pm and not 2am) to see if they actually answer the phone like they say they will. If you do this, tell them you read my blog as I or one of my team members will be picking up the phone.

Erik at Howard’s