When you start looking at the wide range of medical technologies and equipment available on the market, it can be easy to get caught up in the specific way a particular piece of equipment works. It is important that we keep in mind that the primary purpose of any assistive medical equipment is patient and caregiver comfort and convenience.
Durable Medical Equipment
A piece of equipment used for the express purpose of aiding medical care endeavors, whether in a hospital or at home can be considered a form of durable medical equipment.
Any piece of medical equipment, ranging from assistance based technology such as crutches, lightweight transport wheelchairs, rollator walkers, knee scooters, hearing aids to more intensive equipment, like oxygen machines and heart monitors, are included under the blanket term of durable medical equipment.
The label of durable medical equipment indicates that the products themselves are manufactured to meet certain medical and safety expectations. A piece of durable medical technology, as per the name, is made to stand up to repeated use without breaking down or failing. Durable medical equipment is specially manufactured to fulfill a specific assistive function, and as such can range from the simplest of medical tools, such as a finger brace, to complicated life support machines that are found in almost every major hospital.
Durable medical equipment focuses on solving the needs of individuals who are faced with illness, injury, or who may require additional assistance going about their day to day life. These pieces of medical equipment can be geared towards mobility and balance assistance.
When it comes to investing in medical equipment, one needs to be mindful of the quality and security of the device in question. Depending on the type, medical equipment can be a fairly expensive investment. Buying something that is more durable will mean reduced costs over the time period that care is needed. Indeed, for some people, having access to these forms of equipment, for example bath chairs, knee scooters, and walking canes, can mean the difference between a safe and independent lifestyle versus and potential hazards like slips and falls or a restricted lifestyle.
Within the classification of durable medical equipment, most forms of assistive technology can be broken down by two categories. These categories are:
- Duration of usage – short term care or long term care
- Setting of usage – hospital/other professional care giving facility or private home setting
In the primary category, the user of the equipment can have short term care needs for example a brace or a splint, or long term care needs like many form of mobility equipment for patients with restricted movement or mental illness conditions.
The secondary category is if the durable medical equipment is meant for use in a professional setting, such as in hospitals or long term care facilities, or if it is specifically geared towards use in private spaces, such as in homes where individuals with mobility concerns live, either alone or with a care assistant. Here are some examples of durable medical equipment and technology, and how they fit into these distinctions.
Durable Medical Equipment for Injuries, Illnesses, and Disabilities
Durable medical equipment that is geared towards treating injuries, illness, and disabilities varies depending on the intended purpose. While there is some level of overlap between these categories, such as is the case of wheelchairs and other forms of mobility-based assistance technologies, it can be said that for most illness and injury-based technologies the duration of use is often times temporary. While there is some play within this generality, most forms of technology aimed at assisting individuals with disabilities of any kind is meant for more long term use, and as such tends to help replace or simplify an everyday task. On the other hand, injury and illness based durable medical equipment is most often used to monitor or support a condition or area, such as is the case with things like hand braces, knee pillows, and insulin pumps.
For cases of prolonged illness or injury, such as for treatments that require extended hospital visits, durable medical equipment can be used to provide comfort and monitor existing conditions. Forms of technology that fit this example are medical beds outfitted with raising and lowering capabilities, over bed tables that make extended bed rest bearable, any form of monitor that can be used to actively track the status of a patient or administer medications and fluids over time, and simple forms of medical technology, such as back and neck braces or even metal hip replacements. These forms of medical equipment should have all passed the required checks to ensure that they are safe for patient use, and provide some form of comfort or treatment benefit to the patient, which in turn allows them to assist with the quickest, smoothest healing process possible in the long run.
Other forms of durable medical equipment that can be used for both short term injuries and illnesses and long term conditions include mobility assistance devices such as crutches, canes, and wheelchairs, which are made to assist a patient move from one location to another without putting additional strain on themselves or incurring possible risks of falling while attempting the move itself. These are covered under the terminology of durable medical technology, as they are used to increase the comfort, independence, and quality of life for all patients regardless of if their needs are permanent or temporary. These forms of assistive technology can help decrease the length of the healing time for individuals with injuries such as ACL or hip related surgeries, as they can help to take some of the pressure off of the healing joints and tendons, allowing them to heal properly.
Medical equipment that is geared towards long term treatment of individuals with more intensive impairments can range from larger installation features to temporary assistance that can be easily moved from one location to another. The more serious installation, such as a chair lift for help getting up stairs or moving from one floor to another or a standing bath to aid individuals who cannot easily lower and raise themselves out of their bathtub without risk of injury, can be used to permanently outfit a living location for use by an individual with mobility concerns. They are more commonly seen in settings where a person is seeking to age in place.
More temporary forms of durable medical equipment that can be used on an as needed basis, such as transport chairs, shower chairs, and wall bars to assist with bathroom-related tasks, or more intensive forms of care such as bath lifts that can be placed within a bath to allow the user to raise and lower themselves from the bath without having to bend down. These forms of equipment can help increase the mobility and freedom of an individual who suffers from mobility related concerns, and as such fall under the label of durable medical equipment.
Durable Medical Equipment for Home, Hospital, and Care Facility Use
Durable medical equipment that is geared towards professional settings is much different from the medical equipment that is used in home and care facility settings. While most care facilities do supply a team of medically trained staff, they do not always have to operate under the same level of pressures and adaptability as most hospitals do. This may mean that the equipment that they employ tends to differ from the equipment found in most hospitals. Similarly, while some patients require professional medical-grade equipment within their homes, for the most part, home-based forms of durable medical equipment are not the same as those found in a hospital setting.
Medical equipment used at home can range from anywhere from a small medical pump used to administer insulin for individuals who suffer from diabetes, to a large kidney dialysis replacement machine that is used on a nightly basis by an individual to supplement their kidneys in the case of partial to total kidney failure. These pieces of medical equipment are made to be of the same level of quality as those used in a hospital setting, but are geared towards helping the end users to take care of their own medical concerns, and are oftentimes made with user-friendliness in mind. While some of the more intensive forms of at-home durable medical equipment do require some level of input from a medical professional, they are made to be used in a home setting by one or more individuals.
Durable medical equipment for hospitals covers a wide range of equipment types, from monitors to automated medication machines and assistive lifts used to move patients from one bed to another. Due to the wide range of medical equipment used at most hospitals, it is safe to assume that every form of technology used to assist with the treatment and comfort of the patient, from leg and arm braces to more complicated forms of machinery such as MRI machines are all forms of durable medical equipment.
Here is a YouTube video that discusses durable medical equipment and Medicaid:
Overall, no matter what location or specific treatment plan is intended for use with any form of durable medical equipment, the comfort and healing provided by these forms of assistive technology can help improve the quality of life for any individual.