Durable Medical Equipment (DME), also known as Home Medical Equipment (HME), refers to specific medical equipment used for home care, designed for long-term use. Learn about the different DME types and how they can provide families with health care at home.
The term “Durable Medical Equipment” has multiple synonyms, such as Home Medical Equipment (HME), Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS), Assistive Technology (AT), or Assistive Devices (AD).
DME refers to medical equipment and appliances designed for long-term, everyday usage, prescribed by a doctor or an occupational therapist for home use. DME allows aged or disabled individuals to perform their daily activities independently.
DME includes the following pieces of equipment:
- Blood sugar meters and test strips
- Canes, crutches, walkers, and other devices assisting users in walking long distances
- Commode chairs
- CPAP devices
- Hospital beds
- Infusion pumps and associated supplies
- Lancets and associated devices
- Mobile carts, including medication cabinet carts
- Nebulizers and associated medication
- Orthotic and prosthetic equipment
- Patient lifts
- Suction cups
- Traction equipment
- Wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, and indoor mobility scooters
It is crucial to differentiate DME from Home Medical Supplies (HMS), which refers to consumable or disposable medical equipment. Examples include adult diapers, bandages, speculums, dressing aids, catheters, needles, syringes, face masks, compression leggings, or surgical gloves.
DME also does not include equipment that is not intended for use at home, such as oscillating beds, outdoor mobility scooters, or medical workstations.
The Importance of Prescriptions
Although most DME can be purchased without prescriptions, having a prescription from your primary care provider is essential in order to receive reimbursement from your health insurance company.
Qualified care providers include doctors, physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and physical or occupational therapists.
The only type of DME that cannot be purchased without a prescription is medical oxygen. Medical oxygen qualifies as a designated medical gas and is regulated by the FDA, along with other medically-important gases, such as nitrogen, nitrous oxide, or helium.
An alternative to a prescription is a Justification Statement of Medical Necessity or a Letter of Medical Justification obtained from a qualified care provider. This document contains a complete description of the patient’s diagnosis and recommended treatment, including medically necessary equipment.
Accommodating Your Home for DME
Certain types of medical equipment require home modifications, particularly in older houses or dwellings. Example accommodations include widened doorways and ramps allowing wheelchair access, additional power outlets for medical equipment, seated or walk-in bathtubs, or stairlifts.
If your home requires modifications, you may need to seek a certified care provider’s opinion, such as an occupational therapist. They have the qualifications to determine which improvements are necessary and are aware of assistive technology’s latest developments.
Medicare does not typically cover home modifications for the installation of DME. However, they sometimes offer assistance in determining which home modifications are necessary for your home, and they may cover the cost of particular assistive devices if they are part of a modification process.
Specific government agencies and organizations may offer low-interest loans or grants for DME or assistive home improvement. Also, some non-profit organizations may provide free labor or low-cost, long-term loans for materials and equipment.
Medicare, Medicaid, and various other federal and state agencies may offer assistance for financing DME, minimizing the amount of money required to pay out of pocket.
If Medicare covers you, check which Medicare Part applies to you (A, B, C, or D), as each has different eligibility criteria.
Provided you qualify for coverage, Medicaid also offers financial assistance for DME, covering 100% of the costs in most situations. However, there is no single assistance program; each state has its own Medicaid State Plan, which may or may not cover DME.
There are also programs such as the HCBS Waivers, which can grant Medicaid beneficiaries a budget to spend on care providers and suppliers of their choosing.
Veterans may offer assistance through various means, such as the VA Insurance, VD-HCBS grants, and other programs such as TRICARE For Life. Contact your nearest Veterans Affairs office for more information.
All 50 states also possess state-level assistance programs for people in need of DME.
Although the assistance provided may vary widely depending on your state of residence, knowledge of your state’s programs may help you save money. For example, if you live in California, you may be eligible for assistance through the Medi-Cal program.
Nonprofits and charity organizations may also help you finance DME and home modifications to accommodate for them. Many organizations have a specific focus, limiting their eligibility to persons with a particular condition, such as ALS, Parkinson’s, or individuals with missing limbs (lost-limb organizations).
Although some operate at a state or national level, most organizations limit their scope to a particular city or county. For example, the DME Exchange, based in Dallas, TX, operates only in the Dallas County area, relying on volunteers to collect, restore, and redistribute DME to individuals in need.
DME Care and Maintenance
Even after receiving the durable medical equipment you need, it is critical to ensure the equipment works as intended without causing undue pain or discomfort. For example, check the footrests on a wheelchair are oriented correctly or verify that the seat and back cushions are comfortable for the patient.
Specialized equipment may require regular maintenance to prevent life-threatening conditions. For example, a CPAP machine is a breathing aid; therefore, keeping the air circulating through the machine as clean as possible is essential. Failing to clean a CPAP machine may expose the patient to bacteria, increase the risk of infection, allergies, or pneumonia.
Knowing how to obtain durable medical equipment, get the right financial assistance, and adjust and maintain it ensures elderly and disabled family members are cared for and provided by the products they need to live independently.
Scott-Clark Medical is committed to helping you help others. Our state-of-the-art, custom medical carts and flexible battery technology is an excellent investment to improve the efficiency and care quality in any healthcare facility or for home care. To learn more about our mobile carts and our other products, please call us at (512) 756-7300.