New Tool to Keep Electricity Flowing for Home Care

The federal government has unveiled a new tool to support home-based health care.

Health care organizations and other community groups now can use an interactive online map to help ensure that people who use electric medical and assistive equipment in their homes can remain safe during severe weather and other emergencies.

The HHS emPOWER Map was announced Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It displays in a visual way the concentration of people utilizing electrically powered medical and assistive equipment in a given geographic area, and allows the user to overlay real-time weather tracking.

Specifically, the map shows the monthly total number of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries’ claims for electricity-dependent equipment at the national, state, territory, county and zip code levels, HHS stated in a press release.

For example, the map shows that the 60402 zip code in Illinois’ Cook County includes 4,760 Medicare FFS beneficiaries, compared with 1,983 in the 60406 zip code. However, both zip codes have a relatively similar number of beneficiaries relying on electric equipment—162 in the former zip code, 109 in the latter.

The equipment tracked includes oxygen concentrators, ventilators and wheelchairs. More than 1.6 million Medicare FFS beneficiaries rely on equipment of this type, according to HHS.

“With the rise in home-based care, real-time awareness of population-level needs, and the ability to respond to them, is critical,” stated Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, in the release. “Better planning helps communities respond better and recover faster, and that’s where our emPOWER Map can provide the greatest benefit.”

One way the map could be used, according to HHS, is by electric utility companies. They could determine priority areas for restoring service based on the concentration of electricity-dependent individuals. The map could also aid in creating emergency response plans for such needs as transportation and to ensure that shelters are prepared to meet electricity demands.

The emPOWER Map is sponsored by HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). ASPR also is working on equipment signaling technology so that family members, caregivers and emergency responders can remotely monitor the back-up battery power of a critical medical device during a prolonged power outage.

Click here to access the tool.

Written by Tim Mullaney