HHS Online Tool Finds At-Risk Medicare Beneficiaries in Emergencies

June 26, 2015 in News

On Tuesday, HHS launched a new online tool to help identify at-risk Medicare beneficiaries who rely on electricity-powered medical equipment during potentially life-threatening power outages and emergencies, GCN reports (Ziadeh, GCN, 6/25).

Details of Tool

The emPOWER Map was developed by:

  • CMS; and
  • HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response.

The Web-based, geospatial information system was designed, in part, to help providers better plan for emergencies (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 6/24).

According to GCN, the tool allows first responders and health officials to search by ZIP code, county, state and territory for Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries who use electronic devices, such as:

  • Oxygen concentrators;
  • Ventilators; and
  • Wheelchairs (GCN, 6/25).

There are currently about 1.6 million beneficiaries who rely on such electricity-dependent devices (Health Data Management, 6/24).

Specifically, the tool aggregates data on Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries and combines the information with real-time weather tracking services from the National Oceana and Atmospheric Administration (GCN, 6/25). According to HHS, the data are “presented in a way that protects patient privacy.”

However, additional information can be made available during emergencies to help coordinate emergency response “in a manner consistent with” HIPAA and the Federal Privacy Act.

Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said, “This tool helps communities better anticipate, plan for and respond to these unique needs of this population and improve resilience for the entire community before and after disasters” (Health Data Management, 6/24).

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