Medical Equipment & Medical Supplies: What is The Difference?

Difference between medical equipement and medical supplies

While in a hospital, a patient has to be handled with complete care in order to relieve the ailment in question. This, on the one hand, requires the services of healthcare professionals including surgeons, physicians, nurses, etc. In addition, the employment of certain medical devices is also necessary as the healthcare staff cannot do much without their aid.

Medical equipment and medical supplies being used during a medical procedure

Medical equipment and medical supplies being used during a medical procedure

In this regard, different terms are coined for referring the hospital equipment which may seem confusing. Two such terms are medical equipment and medical supplies which are usually used interchangeably as both are considered the same. But there exist some distinctive features which differentiate both of these. Let us look into the details of these differences.

What is medical equipment?

Medical equipment includes items that improve the quality of life of a patient and make the job easy for the healthcare staff. These instruments usually last longer as they are designed in a way to provide service over an extended period of time i.e. 3 to 5 years.

Classification of medical equipment

The medical equipment, owing to its diversity, can be further classified into groups which include the following:

  • Storage and transport equipment: Storage and transport of medical equipment are employed to carry medical supplies as well as equipment from place to place within the hospitals. This way, the overall functionality of the staff is enhanced as a lot of time is saved. These include:
  • Storage carts
  • Case carts
  • Utility carts
  • Durable medical equipment: Durable medical equipment, abbreviated as DME, includes items that are long-lasting and do not need frequent maintenance. These items are necessary as they provide comfort to the patients while being hospitalized or after getting discharged. DME eliminates the need for the patients to move by themselves while being under treatment thus supporting the process of recovery. DME include:
  • Wheelchairs
  • Traction equipment
  • Lifts
  • Ventilators
  • Hospital beds
  • Mobility assistive equipment i.e. canes, crutches, walkers, etc.

Durable medical equipment

Durable medical equipment

  • Diagnostic medical equipment: Diagnostic medical equipment includes all the devices used as diagnostic tools. The presence of diseases as well as the extent of damage caused by them can be easily detected by employing such machines. Examples of diagnostic medical equipment are as follows:
  • Thermometers
  • Stethoscopes
  • Imaging devices i.e. X-ray machines, CT scanners, MRI scanners, etc.
  • Procedural medical equipment: Procedural medical equipment is essential for conducting certain procedures on patients. These items ensure that the whole process is completed quickly and maximizes comfort. These items include:
  • Scalpels
  • Forceps
  • Surgical clamps
  • Operating scissors
  • Headlights
  • Electronic medical equipment: Electronic medical equipment encompasses all the devices which are powered by electricity and are used during surgeries as well as for maintenance of hospitalized patients. These include:
  • Pacemakers
  • Defibrillators
  • Mobile technology carts
  • Medication pumps
  • Monitors
  • Software i.e. medical imaging software, electronic medical records, etc.

Medical equipement

Electronic medical equipment being used for patient health monitoring

  • Surgical medical equipment: This medical equipment includes the articles which are necessary for conducting a surgical procedure. Each of these items has distinct purposes ranging from aiding as a base for the patient to lie down to holding the essential surgical instruments. This surgical medical equipment includes:
  • Operating table
  • Leg and arm support
  • Surgical table pads
  • Hampers
  • Instrument tables
  • Mayo stands
  • Solution stands
  • Kickbuckets
  • Utility tables

Maintenance cost of medical equipment

Although mostly all of the medical equipment is long-lasting and does not need special care, a certain amount of maintenance cost is needed for them once in a while which may include repair of damaged segments, replacement of worn-out parts, updating to latest software, etc. This amount is allocated to the hospitals in the health budget.

What are medical supplies?

Medical supplies are the set of items and articles, used for diagnosis or treatment, which have a short-term use and are disposed of quickly once their job is finished to avoid the chances of contamination i.e. all of these items are usually single-use. These consumable supplies are either employed in hospitals or at home. The patient or the caregiver must be instructed properly about how to use such products.

Medical supplies being used during a surgical procedure

Medical supplies being used during a surgical procedure

Examples of medical supplies

Some of the commonly used medical supplies include the following:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Disposable drapes
  • Scrubs
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Scissors
  • Syringes
  • Towels
  • Urine bags
  • Urinary catheters
  • Surgical masks
  • Enteral feeding tubes

Difference between medical equipment and medical supplies

Medical equipment as well as medical supplies can be differentiated on the basis of the following parameters enlisted in the table:

ParametersMedical suppliesMedical equipment
Duration of useSingle-useLong-term, usually 3 to 5 years
SterilizationNot recommendedPossible if needed
Cost covered byHealth insurance/patientHealth insurance/patient
Maintenance costNoneCovered by the health budget


Medical equipment & medical supplies are the essential products needed in a healthcare setup on a day-to-day basis due to their high utility. Usually, both of these terms are considered similar but they are distinct in meaning. Medical equipment includes long-lasting, highly durable medical instruments which are commonly used within hospitals while single-use, disposable items are classified into medical supplies. Both of these have their specified uses and are highly advantageous while working with a patient within a hospital or in the outpatient department.