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Durable Medical Equipment: The Fundamentals of a Home Care Essential


For people living with chronic illness or injury, staying safe and independent at home relies on getting the help they need. And help comes in all forms: caregiving from family and loved ones; expert medical assistance from home health clinicians; and services like food deliveries and yard work. For many seniors aging in place, one critical source of help comes in the form of devices that are designed to promote safety and disease management at home.

Known as Durable Medical Equipment (DME), this broad spectrum of devices ranges from walking aids to blood sugar monitoring equipment, and much more. This guide offers an overview of how DME is defined, how it’s handled by insurance, and who to turn to in order to get the right DME for your home and needs.

The Many Forms of DME

DME is not confined by any particular disease state, function, or type of assistance. By definition, DME must:

  • Be durable, not disposable (that is, long-lasting and able to withstand repeated use)
  • Serve a medical function (that is, it would not normally be used by someone who is not sick or injured)
  • Be designed for use in the home setting

For example, if a person with a chronic illness and/or limited mobility needed to use an adjustable hospital bed for better blood circulation or reduction of fall risk, that bed would fall under the definition of DME. Manual and motorized wheelchairs can qualify, depending on need. Other examples of devices that can be classified as DME are oxygen and breathing equipment, drug infusion apparatus, commode chairs, and devices to help with lifting or transferring a person with diminished function or strength.

Is it Covered?

A physician must order/prescribe DME in order for it to be considered for insurance coverage. Depending on the provider, coverage may vary; your physician or hospital discharge planner may work in advance with your insurance provider to find solutions that are covered. Some DME — such as specialized beds, or complex equipment that would be used for a brief recovery period — may be rented instead of purchased, likely at a lesser cost.

Under Medicare Part B, 80% of the cost of DME is covered; the patient pays the remaining 20%. Restrictions on which physicians may order the equipment, and/or which suppliers may provide it, could apply. Click here for much more information on the rules pertaining to Medicare coverage of DME.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Most DME, if not all, comes with options. There are numerous suppliers, different models, and many features to choose from. Equipment that is ill-fitting, not strong enough, or difficult to operate can pose as much of a hazard as having no assistance, so getting the right fit and function for the individual is vital for proper use and maximum safety.

But how can you know where to look, let alone what features or details to look for? Residential Home Health’s Transitional Nurse Liaisons frequently work with hospitalized patients on getting DME in place before they are even discharged. The clinicians of the Residential Home Health Care Team can also help patients and caregivers make informed decisions about DME and even assist with proper usage. When the DME needed for your specific health picture is in place and used properly, you will be able to enjoy greater mobility, ease of function, and better disease management, keeping you safer and more independent right at home.

No matter what your health challenge, Residential Home Health offers a range of services to help you work toward your health goals safely at home. Call (888)930-WELL (9355) to discuss your specific situation with a Home Care Specialist today, or click the image below to take our 60-second, 15-question Home Care Assessment.