The Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom has appealed to drone enthusiasts across the country to be mindful of air ambulances as they fly drones. It must be noted that the island nation has over 400 thousand registered drones and probably a few unregistered ones. Owing to the craze surrounding drones these days, the recent festive season has seen an uptick in drone sales. The Civil Aviation Authority is rightly concerned for air ambulances in this scenario. The reason for this is straightforward. Air ambulances often fly at an altitude that is less than 120 meters – the permissible altitude for drone enthusiasts.
CAA Guide for Safety of Air Ambulances
- Keeping drones within the range of sight: It is easier to control the drone if one can see where exactly it is as one flies it. This will help the flyers steer clear of any air ambulances that they may encounter.
- Avoiding airfields and airports completely: Unless there is a compelling reason, flying drones near spaces where air ambulances land or take-off should be a strict no for obvious reasons. The chances of collision are simply too great.
- Adhering to the best practices of flying drones: One can know more about this by visiting the Civil Aviation Authority’s website and reading The Drone and Model Aircraft Code.
- Qualifying for flying drones: This is perhaps the most important one. It is essential that one registers with the CAA and clears the Flyer ID test.
Adherence is a Social Responsibility
According to a statistic by the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom, the air ambulances took to the skies over a thousand times in just the last month of 2021 with over 180 crew members each day. Over 80 people’s lives were saved through various operations. It is, therefore, the responsibility of common citizens to follow certain drone-flying best practices to keep air ambulances safe.
Come New Year and people will no longer need to fear balance billing when it comes to air ambulances. However, the general public is not entirely educated enough about the advantages that the No Surprises Bill brings to the table. Once it comes to effect on January 1, 2022, people will no longer be liable for any bills from air ambulances. It is designed to protect customers from exorbitant charges that are levied on them for exercising their right to live and get adequate healthcare. However, with the new bill coming into effect, there is bound to be some confusion and the potential for people to fall prey to unfair financial practices.
Support for Rights Knowledge
Customers are urged to know their rights by educating themselves thoroughly. Of course, there are going to be issued as to where one can find the right sources for doing so. One such guide has been presented by US PIRGS. The Department of Health and Human Services (popularly known as HHS) will have a dedicated helpline for consumers in this regard. Anyone can call this line to know more about the bill and also raise any complaints that they may have about air ambulances or medical practices in general from physician to hospital services. The scope must be limited to billing practices while doing so.
There is Opposition to the New Bill
Certain air ambulances, doctors’ associations, and hospital conglomerates are opposing the new bill. The primary reason that they are doing so is a strong belief that the new rules favor insurance companies. Their grouse is that insurance companies will arbitrarily be able to decide the payout for the medical services rendered. They also clarify that their intent is not to take away the advantage that the patients get but to create a fair playing ground with the insurance industry.
Air ambulance services play a vital role in transporting organs for transplants around the world. For countries like the United States and the United Kingdom where air ambulance services are well-evolved, the problem of transport hardly is an issue. However, the same cannot be said about other countries like Brazil and India where the concept of medical flights is still new. Many times, even when a donor consents, logistics prove to be a hurdle to get the organs to the recipients on time. What is lacking is a robust infrastructure to make the transport possible and in time.
Air Ambulance Services Can Solve the Logistical Problem
For countries like India, there is no lack of appropriate medical facilities and expertise to conduct organ transplants. In order to make air ambulance services readily available, different logistical approaches are now being considered. One among them is keeping medical flights on standby specifically for organ transplants. The idea is to keep air ambulance services handy to address this issue. All the metropolitan cities in the country have good air connectivity. The government and private players can come together to overcome the logistical issue and make organ transportation a seamless exercise.
The Role of the Government
Almost all airports are owned by the government in most countries. The government can therefore waive off charges that are involved in upkeep and parking of air ambulances. This leaves only the costs associated with fuel and flying, which can be covered through private payers or charitable endeavors. Of course, corporate organizations too can play a vital role in bringing funds for this cause. Ultimately, the transplant costs can be covered by federal or private health insurance. If a strong ecosystem like this can be developed, it will surely save the lives of thousands. It is something that demands serious consideration today.
An air ambulance service always comes at a premium cost. Getting your money’s worth is only possible if you know what to expect out of it. This is especially true if you have enough time to make a comparative study of your options. Of course, if it is an emergency, you will not have the time and will have to make do with the quickest available option. Here are some of the factors that you can look into.
Cost of the Air Ambulance Service
Perhaps the biggest consideration is the cost of the air ambulance service. One must not hesitate to negotiate the price beforehand and try to get the best deal. Feel free to ask for quotes from various air ambulance service companies in your area and choose the one that suits your budget.
The Facilities on Offer by the Air Ambulance Service
In the quest to get the best deal possible, you cannot ignore the service considerations. You would want to tend to the emotional needs of the patient rather than spending time on logistics like finding a hospital bed or arranging a land ambulance. Most of the good medical flight service providers will take care of things like these.
You do not want to end up utilizing the services of an out-of-network air ambulance company. The result can be an out-of-pocket expense that can run into thousands of dollars. This should be one of the first considerations.
Give Air Ambulance Service Membership a Thought
Air ambulance memberships can rid you of the worry pertaining to costs. For just about a hundred dollars a year, you can get memberships that shield you from the risk of having to pay any amount out of your pocket. The only thing to bear in mind is that these memberships are usually limited to only one air ambulance service or at the max, a few of them.
It is widely believed that the new air ambulance regulation that is aimed at putting curbs to surprising billing practices will come into effect at the beginning of the next year. What it holds for the common man is a mystery to much of the country at this point in time. Most people believe that it will put an end to the unexcepted huge medical and air ambulance bills. While this is true to a very large extent, it is not the entire story. There is more to it. We try and highlight those points that one must know fully.
Air Ambulance Billing Can Be an Individual Choice
You will always be encouraged to take an in-network air ambulance service. The cost will be a concern only for the insurance and medical flight service providers. But what if you want an air ambulance service that is out of your network? Upon giving written consent, you can opt for any medical service that you choose. However, the insurance company may not cover the full amount and you may have to pay the service provider on your own.
The Coverage May Depend on Your Insurance Plan
Co-payments will remain as previously. The only difference is that the co-pay amount will not change based on the network. The regulation is applicable only when the service is provided by a non-participating service provider in emergency situations. This part of the regulation will come in handy in instances where the patient is not the decision-maker. For instance, the call to avail of an air ambulance service may be taken by the treating medical professional during an emergency. The patient might not even be able to give consent. The clearance of the resultant bill does not come under the responsibility of the patient anymore.
Infections even after COVID-19 vaccinations are rare but not unheard of. Moreover, the world is today witness to newer variants of the virus and no one knows for sure where the mutations are headed. In this scenario, owing the right medical insurance is of utmost importance. It is every individual’s responsibility to understand what is covered under the insurance and what is not, especially when it comes to medical flight services. Finding out that you have inadequate coverage at the very last moment when you need a medical flight can be disastrous, especially since the cost can veer you towards bankruptcy.
Coverage for Medical Flight Services
Adequate medical flight insurance coverage is especially important for those who travel overseas. Of course, it goes without saying that a comprehensive travel insurance is important. However, not many people understand the importance of looking into the fine print about whether medical flight evacuations are covered or not. If covered, what is the kind of coverage that you would be getting. One must keep in mind that international medical flight evacuations can be extremely expensive and can run into several thousand dollars, often running into eight-digit bills.
What Coverage do you Need?
Some travel insurances will only offer to admit you to the nearest adequate medical facility. That means that you might end up with the best possible treatment but in a developing country or an underdeveloped country. On the other hand, if your insurance promises that you will get treatment closer to your home in your nation, it may necessitate a medical flight evacuation. What you want is a health insurance policy like that. The premium may be slightly higher, but you can breathe a sigh of relief and travel confidently to any corner of the globe. This is especially important in the context that much of the world remains without access to COVID-19 vaccination.
Medical flight personnel is often involved in highly tense situations where quick decision-making and execution can mean the difference between life and death. What does this mean? We are alluding to the need to engage the mind and both simultaneously without being deterred by tough situations. The training module of medical flight professionals must take this factor into consideration. Gamification of their training can achieve this effect. Of course, there is no comparison to real-life experience that these trained individuals will later get. However, gamification ensures that even rookies display better responses within a shorter period.
Designing the Right Training for Medical Flight Professionals is vital
Designing the curriculum and transforming it by introducing gamification is no small feat. Obviously, it is not something that a regular game designer or an academician can achieve. The effort demands that highly experienced professionals with real-time medical flight experience are involved. It is a giant step away from the regular classroom lecture. That said, it must be noted that how much ever mundane classroom lectures may seem, they cannot be done away with. Human interaction is always going to trump any other form of knowledge transfer.
How will Gamification Improve Learning?
Gamification, of course, uses technology as its crutch. However, it also enables this model of training to be personalized. One cannot expect a human trainer to devise a training program that is specific to each individual, but when you employ technology, this becomes easy. Machine learning algorithms can quickly understand each person’s speed of learning and adapt accordingly. Moreover, it is free of human emotions so things like frustration are never in the picture. You can ask a computer program to explain something of a medical flight to you any number of times with zero hesitation. Of course, the medical flight industry must first buy into this concept if it is to become a reality.
In the past, the air ambulance industry has proved that it is an indispensable part of the health emergency services in the United States and beyond. The cost of availing the services has been a concern, but that apart, the utility of the air ambulance industry has never been questioned. Today, it plays an important role in repatriating COVID-19 patients from beyond the borders. It is also continuing to play a huge role in offering quality care to people in the rural parts of the United States. However, because of the COVID-19 situation, there needs to be a change in the way this industry functions.
Definition of Medical Necessity has Changed in the Air Ambulance Industry
Of course, we are not referring to medical necessity in the context of insurance coverage, approvals, etc. That remains the same. However, today, hospitals are encouraging people not to visit them unless it is important. The reason behind this is simple; people who already have a serious health condition must refrain from visiting spots that are hotbeds of COVID-19 infections, hospitals being one among these. The air ambulance industry is not completely prepared to handle this pandemic that is of epic proportions.
Recommending Air Ambulance Services Demands Careful Deliberation Today
Most of the helicopters in the air ambulance industry are not isolated enough to separate the patient from the rest of the crew. This poses a threat both to the healthcare workers and the patients. The problem of isolation does not exist in ground ambulances.
Besides, reaching the hospital early does not translate into immediate admissions today. Depending on the symptoms of the patient, he or she might need to be tested and isolated before being treated. The treatment protocols are still evolving. In essence, the physicians recommending air ambulance services should do so only after careful deliberation.
Amid thundering engines and pounding heartbeats, crews of medical flights set out on life-saving missions every day. The mission starts even before the takeoff. The planning begins with choosing the right crew, the right aircraft, ground coordination, specialists – the list goes on. On long-haul flights, it is also about accommodating the crew members of the medical flights once they land in far off places. Accounting for all the eventualities is what makes a mission successful.
Medical Flights beyond Borders
It takes anywhere between 12 hours to a day to get appropriate permissions for medical flights to cross borders. Failing to achieve this, can result in unnecessary delays and administrative hurdles. When the patient is critical, such a waste of time is can prove to be the difference between life and death. The degree of difficulty in obtaining these permits varies from one country to another. It can cost anywhere between USD 50 and USD 400.
Security of Medical Flights
All said and done, there are always those rare instances where air ambulances have to take off, and the ground staff then has to quickly work towards obtaining the permits. Security is a prime concern in such instances, especially if the travel destination is politically volatile. Experienced medical flight service providers are well aware of such issues and are always prepared for them. They know the process and the people in the right places to make it happen.
Planning the Duration
Typically, air ambulances can be prepared to take off within an hour but these are always short-haul. For longer distances, it can take twice this time. Fuel, medical supplies, landing permits, etc. are part of the preparation.
Medical flights are usually called for emergencies. It takes an experienced crew to smoothly handle the unexpected. This includes the pilot and also coordinators during long flights.
Medical flight professionals function in an atmosphere of uncertainty today where what seems like an unknown illness can be a highly infectious disease, especially with the flu season and infections like Novel Coronavirus making rounds. In this context, how can they ensure their safety while caring for the sick? The question beckons some thought and also a few precautions to remain safe. Difficulty breathing, fever, and cough can be reason enough to take the precautions that we discuss below. The idea is for medical flight personnel to remain prepared to avoid any unforeseen eventualities.
Precautions to be Taken by Medical Flight Professionals
The foremost thing to do is to handle bodily fluids such as blood, vomit, and diarrhea with utmost caution. In this regard, hand washing is very important. Washing hands often when in contact with patients with respiratory difficulty is advisable. Soap is effective, but alcohol-based cleaning agent, which contains at least 60% alcohol is also advised. Care must be taken to not touch the nose, eyes, or mouth with unwashed hands. Medical flight professionals must make ample use of disposable gloves while handling patients. These must be disposed of carefully in biohazard bags. It must be kept in mind that hands are washed even after removing the gloves.
Other Precautions that are Necessary
In areas that are known to have even the smallest number of infected patients, medical flight professionals must make use of bodysuits that are certified to insulate from infections. Since it is suspected that Novel Coronavirus can be aerosolized, it is wise to wear a facemask as a form of protection. Also, the number of personnel coming in direct contact with the sick should be minimized, although it is impossible to completely eliminate this possibility. Most importantly, one should be well-versed with the precautions put forth by the CDC.