Oxygen concentrators are electrically powered devices that provide a constant readily available supply of oxygen from ambient air. They are alternatives to conventional cylinders for long-term oxygen therapy.

Concentrators were introduced into Australia in 1982. All units are imported and are mainly used in the home.

Guidelines for the use of oxygen in the home have been issued by the Thoracic Society of Australia and some hospitals have developed protocols for the selection and management of patients entered in their home oxygen programs.

The capital cost of concentrators ranges from $3,000 to $3,600. The various models differ in weight, size, power consumption, noise production and safety features.

Most concentrators are rented. The annual cost of using a rented concentrator continuously is estimated to be about $2700. The cost of continuous use of cylinder oxygen at 2 litres/minute (L/min) is estimated to be about $7,000.

Overseas and Australian medical literature report that this technology is co t effective. Estimates by the Panel indicate that concentrators (on a rental basis) are cost effective when oxygen therapy is required for more than 13 hours daily at 1 L/min and for more than 5 hours daily at 2 L/min.

In Australia, provision of home oxygen is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance. In some cases it is available free through State programs from public hospitals.

The Panel considers that

  • concentrators are proven cost effective devices
  • because of the considerable savings that might be achieved appropriate Commonwealth and State bodies should explore the wider application of this technology
  • an Australian Standard for oxygen concentrators should be developed
  • manufacture of oxygen concentrators in Australia should be encouraged
  • regular preventive maintenance schedules will help to ensure that concentrators perform reliably.