Managing a new lifestyle that includes physical impairment can take some getting used to. Not only is there a significant change in the activities an individual is able to participate in, there’s also new medications to take, equipment to be fitted, and dietary needs to consider. Unfortunately, not everything your doctor or caregiver prescribes will be a perfect fit, and through a process of trial and error to find what works, patients can accrue medical supplies which, though unused, may be nonrefundable and nontransferable.
Medical supplies include a wide range of products: durable medical equipment (DME) such as hospital beds, and wheelchairs; soft goods or non-reusable items like catheters, or diabetic, wound care, and ostomy products; it may also refer to ingestibles like prescription medications and enteral formulas. The larger DME are often rented or leased by patients; the bulk of in-home medical equipment excess comes in the form of products that cannot be reused.
So what can be done with this perfectly good inventory? Millions of people across the US are in need of medical supplies. The largest challenge comes with trying to donate pharmaceuticals, but even finding a new home for standard items like walkers and excess diabetic supplies can prove challenging. Your best bet is to search the internet for local and regional resources, as many nonprofits provide this service. For larger donations, or to donate nationally or internationally, check out the following recommendations.
Regionally, the Arizona Assistive Technology Exchange, hosted by AzTAP, aims to redirect unused Assistive Technology (AT), adapted equipment, or Durable Medical Equipment (DME) to a patient in need. The program is designed to facilitate equipment/device exchange between individuals and is not for the use of for profit vendors or distributors to sell equipment. The Arizona Assistive Technology Exchange is primarily for residents of Arizona, though entries from other states are accepted.
The American Medical Association recommends several programs which donate domestically and internationally. Their own initiative, WorldScopes, aims to inspire and mobilize US physicians to donate their time, expertise, and resources at home and abroad. WorldScopes collects and distributes stethoscopes to those working in resource-poor settings in the US and around the globe to make sure that no one lacks this essential medical instrument.
Med-Eq is an innovative web-based service that allows donors of medical equipment and supplies to directly connect with the nonprofits in need. Med-Eq allows the donor to post the description and location of available supplies or equipment on Med-Eq.org, where they can be accessed by charitable organizations. REMEDY, Med-Eq’s governing body, screens the interested recipient before providing them with the donor’s contact information, allowing them to contact the donor directly to arrange shipment of the donated materials. As of December 2012, Med-Eq and REMEDY had helped facilitate donations of everything from anaesthesia machines and 40-foot containers of medical supplies, to an ambulance and dental equipment.
MedShare is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving healthcare and the environment through the efficient recovery and redistribution of the surplus of medical supplies and equipment to those most in need. First collecting surplus medical supplies and equipment from hospitals, distributors and manufacturers, MedShare then redistributes it to qualified healthcare facilities in the developing world. They also outfit medical missions and safety net clinics in both the US and abroad.
MedWish International is a not-for-profit organization committed to repurposing medical supplies and equipment discarded by the healthcare industry with the objectives of providing humanitarian aid in developing countries to save lives and reducing solid waste to save our environment.
While it’s disheartening to know that medical supplies you’ve paid for cannot be refunded, it can help to know it can be used to help someone in need. Whether it’s within your community or around the world, find a way to donate your unused medical supplies, to give the chance at a better tomorrow.