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HHS Launches emPOWER Map for Health Disaster Readiness

Biosurveillance Map

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week launched emPOWER Map, an interactive online tool to aid community health agencies and emergency management officials in disaster preparedness.

The new tool is focused on meeting the emergency needs of community residents who rely on electrically powered medical and assistive equipment to live independently at home.

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

More than 1.6 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries nationwide rely on electricity-dependent medical and assistive equipment, such as oxygen concentrators, ventilators and wheelchairs.

The HHS emPOWER Map 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. The tool incorporates these data with real-time severe weather tracking services from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a Geographic Information System (GIS).

The integrated data accessible through the HHS emPOWER Map can help 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.

For example, the HHS emPOWER Map could be used by electric utility companies to determine priority areas for restoring electrical service based on the location of the largest concentrations of electricity-dependent individuals. This could assist hospitals, health care coalitions and Emergency Medical Services in planning better for surges in medical services.

Emergency planners could also use the tool to anticipate emergency shelters electricity consumption increases due to higher concentrations of electricity-dependent Medicare beneficiaries nearby.

Local officials could estimate more accurate assistance needs for transportation and evacuation when local mass transit systems are affected by prolonged power outages after disasters.

While the information in the HHS emPOWER Map 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.

“With the rise in home-based care, real-time awareness of population-level needs, and the ability to respond to them, is critical,” Dr. Lurie noted. “Better planning helps communities respond better and recover faster, and that’s where our emPOWER Map can provide the greatest benefit.”

The HHS emPOWER Map was developed collaboratively by with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Source: HHS, adapted.

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