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Do I Need a Prescription to Buy a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

When a patient first learns that they will require supplemental oxygen to improve their breathing, they are likely to have many questions. Patients often wonder about how to get their oxygen and what steps they will need to complete in order to get the oxygen delivery device they need. If your doctor has recommended supplemental oxygen therapy to you, read on to learn more about where to go from here. 

oxygen prescription

Do You Need a Prescription for Oxygen?

Although we all breathe oxygen, medical oxygen is highly concentrated and qualifies as a medical substance. As such, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a prescription before you can obtain your supplemental oxygen. This helps ensure that you get a clear analysis of your oxygen requirements from a qualified medical professional along with the right oxygen delivery device for your needs.
So, do you need a prescription for oxygen? The answer is yes, but let’s explore why you might receive that prescription. 

Why You Might Need an Oxygen Prescription

Because every cell in your body relies on oxygen to function properly, a doctor will prescribe supplemental oxygen if they find that you are not getting sufficient oxygen on your own. You might receive your oxygen prescription from your primary care physician, a palliative care doctor or a pulmonologist. There are any number of specialty physicians who might determine that you are in need of medical oxygen. Because oxygen therapy is prescribed for a number of different causes for breathing difficulties, including breathlessness, hypoxemia and hypoxia, the doctor that prescribes your oxygen therapy will likely be the doctor treating your present condition. Most often, however, the prescribing doctor will be a pulmonary specialist since they specialize in diseases of the lungs and bronchial tubes.

In order to determine how much oxygen you are currently getting and, accordingly, how much supplemental oxygen you will need, your doctor will administer a number of tests to ascertain your oxygen level. These tests will likely include the following:

  • Arterial blood gas (ABS) study: An arterial blood gas study is a blood test used to measure the acidity, or pH, of your blood, as well as your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. This test is able to tell medical professionals how well your lungs are functioning and whether they are effectively allowing oxygen to be absorbed into your blood while removing carbon dioxide. These measurements are able to provide a great deal of helpful information to your doctors in just 15 minutes. Normal AGB measurements for oxygen fall between 75 and 100 mm Hg (or millimeters of mercury).
  • Oximetry: Oximetry is a less invasive way to test a patient’s oxygen saturation. You are likely familiar with the pulse oximeter that is placed on your fingertip and uses two light frequencies (infrared and red) to determine the oxygen saturation level in the hemoglobin in your blood. Normal oxygen saturation flevels (or SpO2 levels) generally fall between 95 and 100 percent. Any value falling under 90% is generally considered low. 

Once your doctor has determined your current oxygen levels, they will be able to list your low oxygen saturation levels as the cause for a medical oxygen prescription. They can then prescribe the correct amount of supplemental oxygen for your needs.

How Do You Get an Oxygen Prescription?

After your doctor has your oxygen saturation measurement and determines your oxygen needs, they will then be able to write your prescription for your supplemental oxygen therapy. Your prescription will state your oxygen level, along with other pertinent health information related to your particular condition that will help you move forward with getting the right oxygen delivery device for your needs. 

If you wondered, “Do you need a prescription for oxygen?” the answer is clear: An oxygen prescription is necessary to get supplemental medical oxygen. Thankfully, your doctor will be able to get the information they need to write your prescription with a few tests and a thorough assessment. 

Understanding Your Oxygen Prescription

It can be helpful to understand what your prescription should include, as it will provide you and your oxygen supplier with the information necessary to choose the right oxygen delivery device. If you will be using insurance coverage, they will also require certain information. Because your oxygen prescription is essential for maintaining safe oxygen levels for you and will be required by your oxygen provider, as well as in other situations during travel, review it carefully and ask your doctor any questions that may arise. Your prescription should include this information: 

  • A diagnosis, which should explain why you require oxygen therapy
  • Information about the flow dosing (continuous versus pulse dose) 
  • Information regarding recommended oxygen dosage (liters per minute for continuous flow or milliliters per breath for pulse dose)
  • Information about frequency and duration of oxygen use
  • Recommended or potential delivery devices
  • Information for insurance providers or Medicare
  • Doctor’s contact information

Ask your doctor to review your oxygen prescription with you so that you are certain you understand how and when to use your supplemental oxygen, as well as ensuring that you have all the information necessary.

Deciding Which Oxygen Delivery Device Is Right for You

Choosing the right oxygen delivery device for your needs requires that you know a few things about how you will use your supplemental oxygen for your oxygen therapy. Before you and your doctor discuss which oxygen delivery device is right for you, they should tell you:

  • How frequently you will need to use supplemental oxygen
  • How much oxygen you will need (or the liters per minute you will require)
  • Whether you will need continuous flow or pulse dosing
  • Whether you will need to use oxygen while sleeping, resting and/or exerting yourself

Your doctor will give you all of this information with your oxygen prescription, and they can also guide you toward the choices that will fulfill your oxygen needs. Your options include compressed oxygen tanks, liquid oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators. 

From there, you should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each of your options, making sure to include your preferences, too. If you are discussing both oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators, you may have particular concerns about portability, ease of travel, ease of refilling or replacing tanks, total oxygen capacity and more. Be open and honest about any concerns you have so that your doctor can help you make the right choice for your life. 

Making Your Choice: The Pros and Cons of Each Oxygen Delivery Device

In most cases, your choices will be narrowed for you based on your particular needs from your oxygen delivery device. Depending on the flow rate, dosing and times you will need to use oxygen therapy, some options may not work for you. However, generally speaking, there are some pros and cons you should consider when it comes to oxygen tanks versus oxygen concentrators. Before making your final decision, consider the following:

Oxygen tanks (both liquid and compressed gas)

Pros:

  • Less expensive upfront
  • A variety of sizes available, including smaller portable tanks

Cons:

  • Requires regular refills or replacement
  • Refilling portable tanks can be tricky
  • Requires careful tracking of the amount of oxygen remaining in the tank
  • Tanks are awkward and heavy
  • Only available with continuous flow dosing
  • Continuous flow dosing increases the likelihood of creating an oxygen-rich environment, which increases the potential risk of fire as oxygen-induced fires burn hotter

Oxygen Concentrators

Pros

  • Available in both home and portable units
  • Portable oxygen concentrators are easy to take with you
  • Oxygen concentrators pull oxygen from the surrounding air, so as long as they are powered, they can provide an endless supply of oxygen
  • Portable oxygen concentrators use pulse dosing, which means they are less likely to create an oxygen-rich environment and therefore minimize the concern of flammability
  • There is no need for refills, which reduces the ongoing cost
  • Portable oxygen concentrators can be used while plugged in or on a battery charge, making them incredibly versatile

Cons

  • The cost is greater upfront
  • Requires backup oxygen supply in case of power outages

How a Portable Oxygen Concentrator Can Improve Oxygen Users’ Quality of Life

When you are getting your oxygen prescription from your doctor, make sure you are clear about how each oxygen delivery device could impact your life. Supplemental oxygen is intended to improve your health, but it should not make your life worse. Make sure that you choose the oxygen delivery device that will not only give you the oxygen you need, but will also help improve your overall quality of life.

For many medical oxygen users, one of the greatest complaints is the impact of supplemental oxygen on daily life. Attempting to drag around a heavy metal tank is difficult, and it makes leaving the house, or even moving from room to room, a chore. A portable oxygen concentrator can reduce that impact significantly, allowing patients to go about their daily lives more easily, even while receiving their oxygen therapy. With a portable oxygen concentrator, like the lightweight models from innovators at Inogen, patients can improve their freedom, mobility and independence while getting the oxygen they need. 

So, do you need a prescription for oxygen concentrator use? Since you now know that you will need a prescription for any medical oxygen, you know that the answer is yes. You will, however, also need a prescription that specifies the need for a portable oxygen concentrator if you want Medicare or insurance to cover any costs for you. In order to qualify for Medicare or insurance coverage, you will need your doctor to provide evidence in your oxygen prescription that a portable oxygen concentrator is necessary for you. For more information on qualifying for Medicare coverage, call Inogen today at 1-800-695-7915 to learn more and allow us to guide you through the process. 

Otherwise, feel free to contact us any time for additional information on getting your oxygen prescription, purchasing your portable oxygen concentrator or for any other information about oxygen therapy. Discover how a prescription for a portable oxygen concentrator can help improve your life and your breathing today. 

SOURCES

https://www.healthline.com/health/oxygen-therapy

https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/the-need-for-supplemental-oxygen

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4170342/

6 thoughts on “Do I Need a Prescription to Buy a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?”

  1. Avatar Steven Headley says:

    I have a heart condition and I am not getting enough oxygen. I have a scheduled mitral clip procedure on July 15 but need some supplemental oxygen prior to the procedure.

  2. Avatar Jay says:

    Helpful information thank you. My oxygen level was not quite low enough for my insurance to cover it, but I was able to get a prescription for it at QuickMD (it's a telemedicine online doctor service) the same day.

    https://quick.md/oxygen-concentrator

    Ended up getting the Inogen G4 system, which works great for me and is quiet, so that it does not bother me when I sleep. So far I am happy.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Jay,
      Thank you for your comments. We are glad to hear the Inogen One G4 is helping you out and you are enjoying it. Take care!

  3. Avatar Tambra says:

    I need this but I have Medicare

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Tambra,
      Please give us a call and ask us for a Free Medicare Eligibility Check. Our Inogen One G3 unit is sometimes covered.
      Hope to talk with you soon. 800-695-7915

  4. Avatar Thomas Fitzthum says:

    Hello Jay , I'm new here ,but getting alot of info as I search for answers to many questions . Copd is my reason ,it also caused a heart failure 2015, I ve struggeled with trying to control or maintain my healthy breathing for years, At 71, its not any easier. My latest hospital stay "this past week" brought me to you here. Doctor's say my level is to high for coverage.In my case ,I;m ok sitting ,but any exertion at all will show you a level of 95/96 to 80/75. A short rest period will bring me back to 96/95.So I think we are looking for help through the low s. I'll end it here ,you get my needs.I;ll windup calling you later today. Thanks for any comments /suggestions , Tom

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