Help that Lasts: Durable Medical Equipment

This post is an entry for our $25,000 scholarship contest. The post was created by Ross Doty and may not always reflect the views of JW Surety Bonds.

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Many people are not aware of the many types of durable medical equipment available in today’s world- until they need one. The term ‘durable medical equipment’ refers to a wide variety of devices  and equipment that assist people to live more normal lives when suffering from illnesses or injuries which restrict their normal mobility and function.  According to the Social Security Administration it includes such equipment “necessary on the basis of the individual’s medical and physical condition and… used in the patient’s home”. This differentiates durable medical equipment from equipment used in hospitals and other short term uses. By definition durable medical equipment is ‘durable’, meaning that it is designed to be used over and over again by the patient and/or the patient’s caregivers.

As you can already tell, the use and reimbursement of durable medical equipment is a benefit administered by Social Security as well as Medicare. A durable medical equipment benefit is part of most private insurance plans as well. This is a recognition of the role that durable medical equipment can play in controlling medical costs by keeping patients independent and out of hospitals or skilled nursing facilities. In general, patients enjoy a better quality of life at home than in an institution, and devices that allow for improved mobility, respiratory care, home administration of drugs, and other functions help make this possible.

As our society ages, the need for durable medical equipment is increasing. In the US alone the durable medical equipment market is over $26 billion and steadily growing.  The United States is known for producing the most advanced and highest quality durable medical equipment in the world.  It is an industry that ranges from small companies to multinationals and that employs over 300,000 American workers.

Let’s take a look at some of the many types of durable medical equipment in use today.

  • Drug administration: These devices help patients manage their conditions that require long term administration of medications. Examples range from insulin injection equipment for diabetics to nebulizers used in the treatment of respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis. Nebulizers administer medication to patients in the form of a mist which is inhaled straight into the lungs.
  • Mobility: We are familiar with seeing people with restricted mobility using canes, walkers and wheelchairs.  Wheelchairs can be both manually and electronically operated and offer a high degree of independence. They can be customized for various sports and activities that require additional speed or agility such as basketball and racing.  Less visible but just as essential are customized or electric beds available to assist patients move themselves from a bed to a chair with minimum assistance, and lifts that allow for care givers to move patients safely and comfortably.
  • General patient aids- these may include handrails and other safety apparatus to specialized catheters used to manage incontinence or to drain other fluids. Intravenous lines that must be started by a professional can be considered durable medical equipment if they can be managed at home with instructions, and allow for administration of certain medications that cannot be taken orally.

It is likely that in the course of our lifetime we will encounter or be prescribed one or more type of durable medical equipment. We are fortunate to have such a variety of helps available- for as long as we need it.