According to Medicare, durable medical equipment is equipment that:
- intended for durable use. This means that durable medical equipment is strong enough to be used again and again. Examples include wheelchairs, hospital beds and elevators for moving a person from a bed to a wheelchair.
- this equipment is necessary from a medical point of view. Durable medical equipment is used to treat or manage a disease, injury or incapacity. Examples include supplies for people with diabetes, hospital beds, intravenous tubes for drug delivery, oxygen tanks, walkers or wheelchairs, and etc.
- not used by people without disease or injury. A person who is not ill, or who has no incapacity, does not need a hospital bed.
- used at home. The home may be a place of residence, an institution for people with special needs, or a long-term nursing care center.
Specialists who can help you deal with durable medical equipment
Most people find it helpful to work with a specialist who acts as a guide in the process associated with durable medical equipment. Here are some experts who can help:
- the physician must release a prescription. Some items require a more formal document called Certificate of Medical Necessity. In some hospitals, physicians, nurses, medical practitioners, paramedics, or clinical nurse will be involved in the process of ordering durable medical equipment. As a rule, the doctor still has to sign the order.
- a nurse is likely to be the main person who can help you learn about medical equipment, such as feeding tubes, mechanical respirators, oxygen tanks, or intravenous infusion, through which medicine is delivered.
- a physical therapist works to improve the strength, flexibility and mobility of the patient. This may include physical exercises, as well as training with the use of certain types of training.
- a rehabilitation specialist (occupational therapist, OT), is working to improve the patient’s ability to perform everyday activities such as dressing, taking food, and using the phone or computer. Some auxiliary devices may be recommended.
- a speech therapist can help patients who have had a stroke or another type of neurological (brain-related) problem. A speech therapist can recommend medical devices that help improve speech.
- a respiratory therapist helps patients with breathing problems and may recommend medical equipment such as nebulizers and respirators.
- a social worker in a hospital or rehabilitation facility can give referrals for medical equipment or services at home. The doctor must sign the order.
Training in the use and care of durable medical equipment
When you have chosen the right durable medical equipment, it’s time to learn how to use it. If this equipment will be used by other family members or caregivers, they will need to learn how to use it in a proper way.
When a member of your family was in a hospital or rehabilitation facility, the nurse or therapist show you how to use this type of durable medical equipment. But perhaps you do not remember all the instructions. Now, since you are at home, it will be helpful to learn more about how to apply and care for durable medical equipment.
A technician can bring durable medical equipment into your home and then set it up. He or she should also show you how to use durable medical equipment, give you an operating manual and provide a phone number to call if you have any questions. While this is a good start, you may need more detailed information about what to do if something goes wrong.
Make sure that a physiotherapist is included in the care team if your family member needs a walker or wheelchair. You may be surprised when you find out how difficult a wheelchair application can be.