The changing climate and resultant increase in natural disaster events is driving home how crucial energy is for healthcare. Hospitals and physicians’ offices face obvious problems when intense heat or storms knock the power out, but there are less obvious victims in those who are switching to home healthcare. A recent report from Scott PR’s client Clean Energy Group and Meridian Institute shines a spotlight on the importance of energy for this emerging demographic, and how a transition to resilient power could save their lives in the face of climate change.
An increasing number of patients are choosing to receive their healthcare and treatments at home instead of medical institutions. At least 2.5 million Americans now rely on electricity-dependent medical devices at home, while millions more potentially rely on electric devices for home care daily responsibilities. With essential medical devices proliferating throughout so many private homes, a loss of power can threaten millions of lives—and climate change is only making it worse. Weather events are increasing in severity, and average temperatures and weather conditions are causing additional problems for energy grids. The duration of power outages nearly doubled in 2017 compared to 2016, and hurricanes including Maria and Florence disabled energy grids for months.
It’s not just hurricanes presenting problems. Volatile weather is increasing issues with power access in many areas. This summer California is shutting down the electrical grid in fire prone areas as a way to prevent forest fires. More recently, the heat wave in the Northeast led to thousands losing access to power.
Sudden or prolonged losses of power can create medical emergencies for those in home care. Complications including device failure from lack of power caused an estimated one-third of the deaths in the three months after Hurricane Maria. This is an urgent problem for millions of patients, and will only get worse unless something is done systemically to improve energy usage in the United States.
Transitioning to resilient power systems may hold the key to addressing this problem. Battery storage systems can potentially make the most difference for home health care patients. When power is lost, an efficient, reliable, and sustainable battery can keep a healthcare routine on track, while reducing the harmful effects caused by the currently-predominant diesel generator. However, high associated costs prevent many home healthcare patients from accessing and utilizing this option. Redesigning battery storage devices to fit better within private homes, as well as modifying them to fit smaller medical energy needs over larger commercial ones, are important steps to overcoming this barrier. Pursuing this path may bring about essential benefits in new healthcare developments and the broader consumption of energy in society as well.
Read more about the home healthcare trend and the challenges of climate change for healthcare in the Clean Energy Group’s recent report: Home Health Care in the Dark.
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