Energy & environment Health & medicine

The power problem: how power cuts are threatening home care

With remote monitoring and home care on the rise, thanks to the arrival of advanced technology, reliance on the electricity grid is high. But whereas hospitals are required to maintain backup power generators, how are power cuts impacting med tech users outside of hospital grounds? Abi Millar finds out.

For hundreds of thousands of Americans, medical equipment like oxygen pumps, ventilators and sleep apnoea machines can spell the difference between life and death. An astonishing 2.6 million Medicare beneficiaries rely on electricity dependent equipment of this kind to live independently in their homes.

From one perspective, the shift towards home-based care is quite remarkable. In the past, the only option for these patients would have been to stay in hospital or an assisted living facility, often against their wishes. Today, many older people with chronic diseases can maintain a degree of autonomy. The US spent $103bn on home healthcare in 2018, and as the population ages, that figure is expected to rise.

From another perspective, this reliance on complex devices comes with risks attached. If the power cuts out while you’re in hospital, the system will switch to an emergency backup power generator, meaning your device function should not be affected. Unfortunately, there is generally no such recourse if the power cuts out at home.

Read the rest of this article in the August 2021 edition of Medical Technology

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