Durable Medical Equipment (DME)

Last Updated: April 26, 2019

Definition - What does Durable Medical Equipment (DME) mean?

Durable medical equipment (DME) refers to medical devices and equipment that is suitable for repeated use. To qualify as durable medical equipment, the item's primary use must be for the treatment of a medical condition, such as illness or injury. Durable equipment is generally expected to be nonexpendable.

A DME item is usually available for rent or purchase. Because DME is often needed only for a limited time by each patient, many insurance companies only cover equipment rental. Examples of durable medical equipment include wheelchairs, canes, respiratory therapy devices, and hospital beds. These items are usually prescribed or recommended to patients for home use.

WorkplaceTesting explains Durable Medical Equipment (DME)

The categorization of a item as durable medical equipment (DME) is often relevant when determining whether the cost of the item is eligible for insurance or other coverage. For example, absent special exceptions, the U.S. Social Security Administration permits the costs of DME to be reimbursed if certain other conditions are met. Non-medical equipment used for home health care is not reimbursed through this program except under special circumstances.

For most reimbursement programs, a piece of equipment must be prescribed as medically necessary, able to withstand repeated uses, used for medical purposes, and be appropriate for use in the home in order for it to be covered. An item that is still useful in the absence of injury or illness, such as a humidifier or space heater, is not considered durable medical equipment. Neither are medical items that are not generally accepted as being movable from one patient to another such as portable bedside commodes.

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