The key differences between durable medical equipment and disposable medical supplies

The key differences between durable medical equipment  and disposable medical supplies

Many people living with a chronic illness or injury rely on home healthcare products to attain a good quality of life. Such products are categorized as durable medical equipment (DME) and disposable medical supplies. While both are designed to help patients manage their condition, the two categories are distinct from each other. Understanding the basic differences between DME and disposable medical supplies will allow patients to pick out the right products for their needs. It will also help DME providers guide patients in choosing equipment and/or supplies.

DME and disposable medical supplies defined

As defined by Medicare, any item or device that meets the following criteria is considered as DME:

  • Can withstand repeated use
  • Has an expected lifetime of at least three years
  • Medically necessary, as determined by a physician or specialist
  • Generally used in a home setting
  • Not typically useful to people who aren’t sick or injured

The different types of DME help patients complete daily activities as well as alleviate the symptoms of their illness or injury. For instance, walkers enable patients with limited mobility to get around and perform tasks in and outside the home, while oxygen tanks allow people with chronic respiratory conditions to breathe more easily. Other examples of commonly used DME are canes, blood sugar meters, hospital beds, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.

On the other hand, disposable medical supplies are exactly what it says on the tin: typically, these are items that are disposed of after a single use. This category of home healthcare products includes such items as syringes, blood sugar test strips, and personal protective equipment such as surgical gloves and masks. Items used to administer medicine or first aid are also considered as disposable medical supplies. In general, these items are sterilized and individually packaged.

Differences between DME and disposable medical supplies

Durability and usage aren’t the only things that set apart DME from disposable medical supplies. These two also differ in terms of the following characteristics:

Characteristics Durable medical equipment (DME) Disposable medical supplies
Covered by insurance (private, Medicare, or Medicaid) Most types of DME are covered by insurance firms and Medicare or Medicaid, though there are exceptions and limitations. For instance, under Medicare Plan B (Medical Insurance), only 80% of the Medicare-approved amount will be covered; the patient will have to pay a 20% co-insurance, plus the cost of the required DME not covered by Medicare. Insurance providers don’t generally cover the cost of disposable medical supplies. Before ordering any disposable medical supplies, patients should ask their carrier about the items covered by their policy.
Requires a prescription and/or other documents Patients must present a prescription and a certificate of medical necessity from their primary medical provider or a specialist.
Prescription – indicates the recommended therapy, the type of equipment required, and how long and/or how often the equipment must be used
Certificate of medical necessity – a form filled out by the prescribing healthcare professional and the DME supplier that verifies that the patient needs the prescribed item/s as part of their therapy or treatment
Most types of disposable medical supplies don’t require a prescription.
Can be rented or purchased Most DME is initially rented, such as CPAP machines. After a set period, the DME supplier will give the patient the option to purchase their rental equipment.
In certain situations, like when an item is made to fit a patient, outright purchase is required.
These items can be bought directly from pharmacies and other stores where medical supplies are sold.

Safe and effective home healthcare necessitates the use of appropriate medical equipment and supplies. To make sure your patients obtain the right products for their particular needs, turn to a reputable supplier in your area. If they need high-quality CPAP machines and accessories, for instance, enroll your patients in Revsuppliance’s resupply program. Call 405-467-1791 today to schedule a demonstration and to learn more about our services.

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