OBJECTIVE: Almost every country in the developed world has a domiciliary oxygen program. Whether recipients meet program criteria has not been rigorously studied. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey. PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred thirty-seven patients receiving domiciliary oxygen in the Ontario Ministry of Health Home Oxygen Program (HOP). METHODS: A respiratory therapist visited the patients' homes and administered questionnaires, obtained resting arterial blood gas measurements, and conducted a standardized home exercise test while monitoring oxygen saturation using an oximeter. Measures of outcome: We evaluated the extent to which patients met HOP criteria that are based on the inclusion criteria of randomized trials showing the life-prolonging effects of domiciliary oxygen. We also assessed the extent to which the patients' oxygen prescription was consistent with the results of rest and exercise testing. RESULTS: Ninety-six of 237 participants (40.5%; 95% confidence interval, 34.3 to 46.8) did not meet criteria for home oxygen. Patients aged < or = 70 years were more likely to meet criteria (71 of 105 patients; 67.9%) than those > 70 years old (70 of 132 patients; 53.0%). The proportion of patients meeting criteria was similar whether the referring physician was a specialist (71 of 112 patients; 62.5%) or a primary-care physician (69 of 123 patients; 56. 1%). A very important health benefit from oxygen was identified among 82% of those who met criteria and 88% of those who did not. Patients received higher flow rates than our criteria suggested were appropriate. Agreement between the independently assessed oxygen prescription at rest and the patients' report of oxygen use was extremely poor (chance-corrected agreement [kappa], 0.17), as was agreement concerning optimal exercise flow rates (kappa, 0.26). CONCLUSIONS: Current procedures for administration and reimbursement of home oxygen result in a large proportion of recipients not meeting criteria, as well as the prescription of excessive oxygen flow rates. These results are likely to apply to many jurisdictions and suggest a large potential for more efficient resource allocation.
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