The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has selected the winners of its idea challenge to help communities support patients who depend on durable medical equipment (DME). The contest was sponsored by HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).

Thousands of people in the United States rely on electrically powered DME equipment to meet their medical needs at home. In emergencies such as prolonged power outages, they often must seek help in shelters or emergency rooms to power the equipment or recharge their battery.

(Related: CMS proposes new rules for disaster preparedness for dialysis facilities)

Launched Sept. 2013, the challenge sought inventive ideas on how to create a system that, in emergencies, could signal the location and status of the life-sustaining equipment. With this information, patients and caregivers can prepare and respond to prevent low batteries in emergencies.

Leo Angelo Gumpas and Xadean Ahmasi from Laurel, Md., partnered as a team in the idea challenge to grab first place with the creation of an integrated, internet-based system which automatically monitors and transmits essential data from DME devices to caregivers and responders to provide actionable information in support of emergency planning and response operations.

Stan Barrack from Forest Park, Ill., came in second with the idea to create an integrated set of tools that could use inexpensive technology, such as a cellular phone application, to securely share critical information on the status of DMEs in impacted areas with existing data centers where specific patient information is stored.

Third place was awarded to An-Hu-Li and his son David-Li from Commack, N.Y., who developed an idea for a cost-effective wireless DME status reporter based on two-way radio technology. The device would send and receive vital information between a patient DME unit and authorized users, such as caregivers and first responders, operating on the same radio frequency. The technology would include security features to prevent interception of confidential patient data.

“We hope these innovative solutions can serve as a foundation for further research and development of tools to help DME users during emergencies,” said HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response Dr. Nicole Lurie.

First place winners of the challenge receive $5,000; second place receive $3,000, and third place receive $2,000.

To learn more about application challenges sponsored by federal agencies, including challenges that support emergency preparedness, visit challenge.gov.