The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announces has launched the HHS emPOWER Map. This interactive online tool is designed to help community health agencies and emergency management officials plan ahead to meet the needs of residents who live at home and rely on electrical-powered medical and assistive equipment, in case of emergency.

The new tool was developed by the HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to a release from HHS.

“For people who rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, prolonged power outages can mean life or death,” explains Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH, HHS’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, in the release.

“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,” she continues.

The release explains that the tool 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. It then incorporates this data with real-time severe weather tracking services from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a Geographic Information System (GIS).

The data accessible through the emPOWER Map could community organizations—including hospitals, first responders, and electric utility officials—work with health officials to prevent health impacts of prolonged power outages due to storms and other disasters on vulnerable residents, according to the release.

It could also help emergency planners anticipate whether emergency shelters might experience greater electricity demand due to higher concentrations of electricity-dependent Medicare beneficiaries nearby, per the release.

The information in the HHS emPOWER Map is presented in such a way to protect patient privacy. However, in an emergency, additional information can be made available to a health department to facilitate life-saving emergency response in a manner consistent with HIPAA and the Federal Privacy Act, the release explains.

“With the rise in home-based care, real-time awareness of population-level needs, and the ability to respond to them, is critical,” Lurie notes in the release.

“Better planning helps communities respond better and recover faster, and that’s where our emPOWER Map can provide the greatest benefit,” she shares.

[Source: US Department of Health and Human Services]