In the event of a disaster, the Department of Health and Human Services has launched a geospatial information systems-based tool to help community health and emergency management agencies prepare for the needs of Medicare beneficiaries who rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment. 

Called the HHS emPOWER Map, the interactive online tool provides integrated data to hospitals, first responders, electric utility and health officials to limit potential impacts of prolonged power outages due to storms and other disasters. Currently, there are more than 1.6 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries nationwide that rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, such as oxygen concentrators and ventilators. 

Using the digital map, organizations can find the monthly total of Medicare beneficiaries with electricity-dependent equipment claims at the U.S. state, territory, county, and zip code level. They can then incorporate these data with real-time severe weather tracking services from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to identify areas and populations that may be impacted and at risk for power outages.

“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,” said Nicole Lurie, M.D., assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS.

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Developed by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, emPOWER Map is designed in part to assist hospitals and other healthcare organizations to better plan for potential surges in medical services that might be needed as a result of these emergencies.

According to HHS, while the tool’s information is “presented in a way that protects patient privacy, in an emergency, additional information ­can be made available to a health department to facilitate life-saving emergency response in a manner consistent with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act and the Federal Privacy Act.”

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