There was a time when medical air services were nothing but means to get the injured and the critically ill to medical facilities. With technology, air ambulances have evolved a great deal today. The evolution has been to the extent that medical flights these days are nothing short of hospitals on wings. With physicians onboard, the survival chances of people involved in accidents, shootings and stabbings are much better. The United States is also among the few countries in the world that have a huge number of air ambulances, ready to carry patients anytime, anywhere.
Medical Procedures that Medical Air Services Handle
Air ambulances are usually loaded with equipment like oxygen and vital monitors. There are instances where invasive procedures such as thoracotomy too have been performed. Emergency amputations and putting patients into induced coma also can be carried out in a medical flight. How can we forget the role of air ambulances in ferrying Ebola patients to the United States during the crisis in African countries recently? The medical air services were so equipped that risk-free quarantines were created within them.
Air Ambulances Employ Highly Qualified Personnel
Quality of care is the hallmark of most air ambulance service providers. Special training is invariably given to the crew and ongoing training sessions are conducted. There are specialty medical flights – just like hospitals – that take care of specific concerns. For instance, you can find pediatric intensive care units within air ambulances, complete with qualified staff to handle infants.
Career in the air ambulance industry is also a highly sought out one in the United States today. The excitement of being in the midst of action and big pay packages have meant that qualified medical personnel are eager to join the industry. For a common man, the developments mean quicker and efficient healthcare services.
Our soldiers lay their life on the line to keep the borders of United States safe. They surge ahead on the battlefield with a sense of purpose backing them in dangerous situations. There’s no doubt that these soldiers when they retire from active duty, are well respected throughout the country, but they’re not devoid of problems with adjustment in civilian life.
These highly skilled and disciplined patriots often find it tough to fit in the civilian environment, especially in the professional front. The reason is simple, they fail to find meaning in the professional life as a civilian after years of purposeful profession. Medical flight services bring veterans respite.
Medical Flight Services have a Greater Meaning
Just like the military that saves lives by acting beyond borders, medical flight services saves lives back home. For veterans the profession gives a sense of purpose. Also, the life in the military is always fast-paced and so is the life of people involved in medical flight services. The military also trains the personnel in several aspects that are well-suited in the medical flight services industry. Of course, being able to fly the aircraft is a big advantage if the veteran has been a military pilot. Then, there are also other roles such as helping evacuate wounded military personnel, flight coordination, and experience in emergency medical services. Such skills are in high demand in the air ambulance industry which is rapidly growing today.
The Pay in Medical Flight Services is Pretty Good
Like all professions the pay depends on experience, but with a strong background of dealing with medical emergencies, military personnel have a better chance of making it big in a relatively short period of time in medical flight services. In fact, pilots and emergency medical personnel are actively sought by medical flight services in the country by major service providers.
Most of our discussions have always revolved around insurances, scheduling, and other facts pertaining to medical air transport. Here, we veer a bit from our usual discussions and move towards a few fun facts that will also add to the pool of your general knowledge.
First Medical Air Transport Vehicle was actually a Balloon
Yes, you read it right, a balloon! An air balloon was first used in 1866 to rescue stranded sailors of a shipwreck. The rescue finds mention in Jules Verne’s Robur le Conquérant. The name of this medical air transport balloon was Albatross. Some time later, another air ambulance balloon was used to evacuate 160 soldiers from a city under siege in 1870.
The WW-I also Marked the Beginning of Medical Air Transport
Well, something good came out of the War that had left the world in shambles. The French were the first to recognize the importance of medical air transport. They estimated that the mortality rate would fall by 60% if medical air transport was made use of.
The first person to be rescued through a proper aircraft for medical reasons was as Serbian officer during World War I.
The credit of having an organized air ambulance service goes to the Nazi Germany, which in 1936 had a fleet of medical air transport vehicles. They first put it into use during the Spanish Civil War.
The First Civilian Medical Air Transport took Place in 1933
Private air ambulance services had still not come into picture. It was, in fact, the British Air Force that first started helping civilians. It was on May 14, 1933 that a fisherman who suffered a perforated stomach was transported through an air ambulance.
Switzerland caught up after World War II, mainly to aid in rescue missions involving mountains during winter sports.
Looking at these facts, we must feel fortunate knowing that the response time these days has gone down to just about 10 minutes during emergencies.
Availing a medical flight can be quite intimidating, especially considering the stress of caring for a loved one who is already in distress. Here, we bring you a typical medical flight trip and how things usually pan out. In fact, we walk you through the entire process.
What Happens When You Contact a Medical Flight?
When you call a medical flight company, you will be greeted by customer support first who would collect certain basic information and then transfer you to a case manager or flight coordinator. Here pertinent information related to the medical flight would be relayed to you. This is the time that you can raise any initial concerns such as average flight cost, flight timing, distance, and accompanying the patient. You will be asked to confirm payment arrangement for the medical flight. Feel free to take help of the treating physician and hospital staff if you are not able to answer questions relating to the patients condition or ailment.
The Medical Flight Coordination Begins
The information gathered from you will be relayed to the medical director of the air ambulance provider. The director will, in turn, get in touch with the attending physician. The attending physician would lay down the medical necessities of the patient so that the flight can be prepared accordingly. This includes qualified staff as well as medical equipment, and also information regarding transfer to an appropriate medical facility.
On the Day of Medical Flight
The medical flight company will get in touch with all those involved in the transport of the patient, including the hospital staff. The ground ambulance would take the patient up to the medical flight and the patient would be taken onboard. The patient and the person accompanying would be briefed on safety precautions and the dos and don’ts.
Upon reaching the destination, a ground ambulance would be already waiting to ferry the patient to the medical facility which is pre-decided. The patient is carefully offloaded and reconnected to any vital medical equipment in the ground ambulance as necessary. The medical flight team would brief the receiving medical staff about the patient’s condition before signing off.
The onus of arranging and coordinating between medical facilities, ambulances and the medical flight is taken care by the hospital and the air ambulance staff. All you would need to do is take care of the payment procedure and pray for the good health of the patient.
The question has been long debated in the medical circles and the civilian population, especially considering the growing costs of hiring air ambulances. Here, we discuss a few arguments against the efficacy of air ambulances and point out why these arguments hold no water.
Publication on Air Ambulances by University of Texas Medical Branch
This research dates back over a decade. So, discounting the fact that the traffic as well as the overall population has increased today, we still go by the argument presented in the publication. The study was conducted taking into consideration data that followed 24 months after a hospital discontinued air ambulances and comparing it with the data 12 months preceding the discontinuation of air ambulances.
The study concluded that the discontinuation of the air ambulances did not increase death rate of patients with trauma or increase the transport time. Now, a lot of people arguing against the necessity of air ambulances might cite this finding. However, looking at the “abstract” of the publication, it is apparent that a few vital factors have not been considered.
Without the Air Ambulances, did the Same Number of Patients Reach the Hospital?
That’s the important question. The study says admissions to trauma unit decreased 12%. There was a whopping 17% decrease in admissions involving severe injuries. With the number of road accidents on the rise in the United States continuously, it seems surprising to see the number of emergency cases being reported to a hospital decreasing.
One explanation could be that those cases which demanded urgent attention did not actually receive it due to unavailability of air ambulances. That certainly is not an encouraging sign. The air ambulance networks that are available today can not only reach the patients on time and take them to the nearest appropriate facility, but also offer life-saving treatments during the flight. In fact, we have highlighted the need to get the patients adequate treatments before the golden hour earlier in one of our reports.
People who argue against the need of air ambulances must take the whole picture into consideration before making such sweeping statements.
Speak of flights and the first thing that comes to mind is the price tag; however, one needs to look at medical flights from a totally different perspective. While price can be a criterion, it can never be the only one. Here are certain factors that you must be taking into consideration to ensure the wellness of your loved ones while choosing medical flights.
The type of medical flights being used
Not all medical flights have the capability of running in tough weather conditions. Plus, the air ambulance needs to be cabin pressurized for patient safety. There are aircrafts that are often used part-time as chartered planes; you are advised to steer away from such medical flights as the chances of them being fully equipped medical emergencies is questionable.
Medical flights and safety compliance
Look for the accreditations. A company that complies with the rules laid down by the Federal Aviation Administration is the best one to choose. Violation of these norms is usually recorded and made public so that people have the choice to avoid them.
Medical flights with qualified crew
This one might come as a shock to you but providers of medical flights are not mandated by the government to maintain standards when it comes to qualified staff (apart from the pilot). The doctors and emergency medical personnel might not have great credentials. Medical flights don’t come cheap and you deserve the best. Ensure that you are knowledgeable about the credentials and experience of the crew members.
Experience of the pilot
Medical flights take to skies in tough weather conditions some times. It is essential that an experienced pilot is in control of the aircraft. FAA mandates that the pilot has at least 1500 flying hours under the belt. Some providers have their own standards that are better than the FAA standards.
The medical equipments onboard
Medical flights are often required to take care of midair emergency situations. To accomplish this, they need to have adequate equipments like oxygen, heart monitors, etc.
The communication and coordination
Medical flights need to be in constant touch with the receiving hospital so that all necessary arrangements are made beforehand. Also, the medical flights need to have good communication systems that constantly keep the pilot abreast of weather conditions in the destination. Having adequate communication infrastructure saves crucial minutes when time is of essence.
Of course, people must ensure that their insurance policies cover medical flights so that they are not burdened by huge costs during emergencies that warrant air ambulances.
It is natural for one to wonder what separates medical flights from commercial charter flights, after all both would be available on demand. Of course, a medical flight would be fitted with equipment that are designed to serve the patients but one might ask whether such equipment can be made available at short notice in a charter flight. In fact some of the features of medical flights are always available in commercial charger flights. So, what exactly is the difference?
Oxygen System in Medical Flights
Oxygen would be available in both; however, medical flights store a different class of oxygen. Unlike charter planes that can only deliver about 4 to 8 liters of oxygen per minute, medical flights can deliver oxygen at 25 liters per minute. Plus it delivers medical grade oxygen and not oxygen butanes that commercial flights do.
Sickbeds in Medical Flights
The maximum you would find in a charter flight is a temporary stretcher. However, a medical sickbed is permanently anchored on medical flights and come with far superior features than a temporary stretcher.
Power Systems in Medical Flights
Medical equipment need power supply that is vastly different from that available on commercial charter flights. The equipment need DC 28V and AC 110V power supply, which is inbuilt in medical flights. No such facilities would be available in commercial flights.
Cabin Pressure in Medical Flights
Certain medical conditions demand that there is a constant barometric pressure. Medical flights are designed to maintain such pressures. On the other hand, the pressure in charter flights varies with altitudes over 5000 feet above sea level.
Medical flights are better equipped to handle emergencies
Medical flights only ferry passengers and would be on standby 24 hours a day. The patients are assured of qualified medical care onboard and do not have to make separate arrangements for that. Most life support equipment would be already onboard and only certain equipment in special circumstances need to be borrowed from the transferring hospital.
The services of Trauma Hawk Aero-medical Program is dedicated to providing emergency medical flight services to the residents of Palm Beach County, California. The medical flight services were begun in the year 1990. It has since flown over 14,000 times rescuing about 700 patients every year.
The great thing about Trauma Hawk is that it has a track record of zero fatalities or accidents. This is exemplary considering that there have been 19 fatalities involving air ambulances between 2011 and 2013. On average the medical flight is dispatched anywhere between 1 and 5 times each day. So far, it has been taken care by Palm Beach County Health Care District. The medical flight services, however, are not free of cost and according to one report about $10,000 can be covered through medical insurances.
History of Trauma Hawk Medical Flight Services
In the years preceding 1990, emergency medical flight services were through choppers owned by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department. However, with Palm Beach’s increasing population, it was felt necessary that separate medical flight services be initiated, which gave rise to the Trauma Hawk Program. A Bell 412 chopper too was purchased for the purpose. Today, it uses two 1999 Sikorsky S76-C+ choppers. Dispatching the medical flight services depends on the information provided by the 911 callers and paramedics on the scene.
The Future of Trauma Hawk Medical Flight Services
Recently, questions have been raised whether the medical flight services should stay with the Palm Beach County Health Care District or Palm Beach County Sheriff. The argument by the Sherriff’s department is that the aircrafts could also be used for other services such as fire rescue operations and other emergencies. While the Health Care District argues that the service must stay with them so that residents of the area get timely care.
Palm Beach County Communities that Benefit from Trauma Hawk
The county has 38 municipalities that come under it and trauma hawk medical flight services are available to all of them.
For long, Americans have been worried about the costs of opting for an air ambulance service. We have heard horrid tales of people stuck with air ambulance service bills that run into thousands of dollars and insurance companies unwilling to share the burden. The Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District or SEMAAD has now given a glimmer of hope for such people. If the model is adopted widely throughout the country, cost of air ambulance service would no longer be a worry for most American citizens. Let’s learn a bit more about the recent SEMAAD deal.
How is SEMAAD Making Air Ambulance Service Affordable?
Getting to the crux of the deal, the beneficiaries would not have to pay – the amount that is not covered by insurances or other providers – out of pocket. In other words, the medical flight would cost you nothing. The air ambulance service cost benefit currently is being extended to the residents of nine counties that come under SEMAAD. It has struck a contract between the air ambulance service company, Med-Trans Corp and its medical partner Ochsner Hospital. The deal is expected to come through by March next year. The following counties would be covered:
- Pearl River
- Jefferson Davis
Why is the Air Ambulance Service Move So Important?
The move could act as a guideline for other regions of the United States to follow. In a country where air ambulance service is mainly provided by private players and air ambulance charities are virtually non-existent except for a very few of them, the move is welcome. The contract literally puts life before air ambulance service costs.
SEMAAD also has a contract with Baptist LifeFlight. Both Med-Trans Corp and Baptist LifeFlight air ambulance services would be operating from Bobby L. Chain Municipal Airport in Hattiesburg.
Complete continuity of care in the air ambulance industry transportation refers to by accompanying the patient during every stage of their journey. The air ambulance company’s medical teams will meet the patient at the discharging facility, and accompany them until they reach their destination. Not just the airport in the city, but to and from your room at home, the hospital or other care facility. It is incredibly important to keep your medical care as seamless as possible when transporting you and ensuring the receiving facility receives all of your details upon your arrival.