Contrary to popular belief, hospitals are rarely involved in dispatch of a medical flight. The decision is almost entirely taken by the ground crew and treating doctor who determine whether the patient would benefit from an air ambulance service or not. Of course, there are some protocols that are followed. Although the process and protocols vary depending on the jurisdiction, there are certain common determinants that we discuss here.
Time Taken for Medical Flight Dispatch
It must be understood that not all hospitals have a medical flight on standby. It takes a reasonable amount of time to get the flight ready for takeoff. If this time and the time required to transport the patient is too much when compared to ground ambulance transport, the latter may be chosen. There is also a cost consideration when the difference in time advantage is too small.
Location and Distance of Transfer
This is another important criterion. Sometimes the location is too far away from the hospital and the patient’s health does not permit long travel times. Also, the location may be inaccessible through roads. In circumstances like these, the decision is usually made to opt for a medical flight to keep the patient safe.
The Condition of the Patient
This is of extreme importance. A delay by half an hour can mean the difference between life and death for the patient. In scenarios like these, a decision is taken quickly to call for an air ambulance and the patient is transported. Near-drowning, prior history or suspected stroke, and severe trauma could be some of the conditions that could influence the decision.
The Weather Conditions for the Medical Flight
If there are adverse weather conditions that prevent the choppers from flying, the patient may be transported through other means. As a matter of policy, the lives of crew members are not put to risk knowing very well that taking off in bad weather could be fatal.
It is important to understand that the above are just a few of the reasons that influence medical flight dispatch decisions. It is always the competent medical authority that takes the final decision.
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.
Medical emergencies pop up just about any time. What if they pop up during your overseas vacation? You might be chilling out somewhere in Cuba and suddenly your partner suffers a stroke. You get your partner transported to a hospital and suddenly, you realize that the standards of healthcare are below your expectation. That’s when the panic kicks in.
The first thing that comes to mind is a worldwide air ambulance service that can get your partner safely back home for quality medical care. But then you realize, you’re in Cuba and getting out of a country that doesn’t enjoy a great diplomatic equation with your home country is not all that easy. That’s when the connections of your air ambulance service provider come into picture.
Always Choose Experienced Worldwide Air Ambulance Services
Well-known worldwide air ambulance companies have contacts at the highest level. Take for instance that the Cuban officials put a 24-hour hold on the air ambulance services. These 24 hours could mean the difference between life and death, and staying back is not a choice.
A worldwide air ambulance company that has the right connections will put in all efforts to push the right buttons (and strings) at the highest level to get you evacuated. There are organizations and sympathetic political leaders throughout the world. The only thing needed is the right approach to get to them.
Of Course, Worldwide Air Ambulance Cover Matters
While getting out of a country is one issue, footing the air ambulance bill is another. Your worldwide air ambulance company will be at ease when it knows that you are covered financially. Transporting a patient beyond borders is typically an expensive affair. However, the good news is that there are worldwide air ambulance coverage programs designed specifically for this purpose. The next time, you set out for an overseas vacation, keep these aspects in mind. After all, it pays to be safe.
The United States of America spends the highest amount of money on healthcare in the world. It was already at $2.9 trillion in 2013, which has only increased since. This is not necessarily a bad thing as patients invariably get excellent medical care throughout the country.
The insurance too, for the most part, covers the expenses well, although it’s a bit long-drawn sometimes. However, air ambulance service coverage has been a bone of contention for sometime with most of the blame going to the air ambulance service provider rather than the insurance companies. Take the instance of air ambulance services in Montana.
Air Ambulance Service in Montana
Montana is mostly comprised of rural areas, so speciality healthcare is not always available close by, necessitating use of air ambulance service for adequate treatment. The air ambulance services are not always covered by insurance companies in full and the reason given is that the service is not “in-network” and only the companies that are in the insurance network are covered.
Bargaining Power of Air Ambulance Service Providers Matters
To get to the core of the problem, one needs to understand the negotiations held between air ambulance service providers and insurance providers. In a place like Montana, there are a few insurance providers; in fact, there are just three. This gives the insurance companies huge bargaining power when fixing an amount that would be given to the air ambulance service provider. Most air ambulance companies are wary of settling for a low price as it doesn’t adequately cover the cost. As a result, they choose to stay out of the network. Insurance companies only cover air ambulance services in full if they are offered by companies “in network.”
Moreover, the patient rarely gets to choose an air ambulance service provider. Last year alone, Montana saw over 3,000 medical flights. There needs to be some consensus between all the insurance providers and air ambulance service providers if the patients are to benefit in the true sense.
Airambulance industry is growing at a rapid pace today and is a great career option for those who are in the medical profession. Doctors who have great problem-solving skills and quick wits are considered ideal for the job. Of course, there is also a sense of adventure involved in rescuing people stranded in tough conditions. The basic aspects such as being licensed and authorized in the state where the doctor practices are a must. Apart from that, there are certain other aspects that are vital to be an airambulance physician.
Being Within Reach during Airambulance Emergency
The job of an airambulance physician knows no time. Although most doctors are accustomed to emergencies, being constantly on call is not everyone’s cup of tea. Most airambulance companies demand that the flight physician stays within a radius of 2 hours from the base.
The job also requires dedication as the physician may have to attend periodic educational sessions and also constantly demonstrate expertise and experience pertaining to modern prehospital care as well as hospital care. The airambulance doctor might also be asked to take responsibility of quality maintenance.
Necessary Qualifications to be an Airambulance Physician
The physician must attend aviation physiology course in accordance to the Department of Transportation standards. This also mandates attendance once every three years. Most companies demand that the following certifications must be valid at all times.
Then there are optional ones such as:
However, it should be noted that the requirements may wary from one airambulance service provider to another. Also, there are separate set of certifications for pediatric doctors and neonatal doctors who wish to be airambulance physicians. While some companies might ask for prior experience, it’s not hard to find an airambulance company that hires experienced and certified doctors who have no prior experience as airambulance doctors.
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.
You are just recovering from a serious health issue that demanded immediate attention. The matter was so urgent that it warranted an air ambulance transport. Just when you think that the worst is over, you are hit with a huge air ambulance transport bill. You breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you are covered by your insurance. Then, another shocker: the insurance company refuses to foot the entire cost. You suddenly find yourself spending sleepless nights not knowing how to foot such a huge air ambulance transport bill. Don’t worry, there’s still hope for you.
The Air Ambulance Transport Bill could be a “Sticker Shock”
It’s not unheard of in the healthcare industry where the listing prices are kept very high and air ambulance transport industry is no different. The prices are significantly lowered later, depending on the negotiating capacity of the patient. It is not unusual for air ambulance providers to come down to half the listed price. Some even offer flexible payment options.
Insurance companies that have huge number of subscribers are most likely to get huge discounts from air ambulance transport companies. Another factor is payment in cash. If you have the resources, the discount could be great. Also, you stand to gain if the air ambulance transport company is in the network of your insurance provider.
Community-Based Air Ambulance Transport Programs
Is the air ambulance transport company that you chose a part of community-based air ambulance transport program? If it is, then you’re lucky. The price is going to be low and is very likely to be covered by your insurance program. However, some air ambulance transport companies remain out of such community-based programs. These companies usually charge a huge amount which is not always covered by insurance companies. The amount not covered is usually recovered through the patient. If you have been served by one such air ambulance company, you might want to negotiate hard with the air ambulance transport company.
The different states of the United States are also in the process of designing a priority list which will mandate that health care providers give preference to community-based air ambulance transport companies before calling a provider who is out of such network.
Air ambulance services are the only option most of the time when a patient suffers a severe heart attack, stroke or any other medical eventuality. The sad part is that, during such times, most patients are neither in a position to deny air ambulance services nor choose one on their own. For this reason, the Nebraska Department of Insurance has come up with certain guidelines to keep the patients away from financial shocks.
How Much Does Air Ambulance Typically Cost?
The numbers can run anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000 per flight and these numbers only cover domestic flights. If the requirement of air ambulance is to fly overseas, the price can go well over $100,000. The Association of Air Medical Services says that over 550,000 patients make use of air medical evacuation each year. A sizeable part of this population later faces problem when it comes to payment of the bills as insurance companies refuse to cover the entire charge.
Understanding Air Ambulance Insurance
Insurance companies will only pay the bills when they deem the use of air ambulance absolutely necessary for the patient’s survival. There are times when insurance companies refuse to foot the bill or part of it.
When it comes to Medicare, it only pays if it determines that the necessity for air ambulance is immediate and that ground ambulance cannot do the job. Also, it only covers the cost to the nearest appropriate medical facility.
What is the Solution?
The first and foremost thing to do is read all the details of your insurance cover thoroughly. In case you need additional cover, purchase it beforehand. Know all the terms and conditions. Here are some of the questions that should bother you:
- Will the insurance cover equipments like oxygen and life support onboard the air ambulance?
- Will the cost of transportation to and from the air ambulance be covered?
- Will the cost of family member accompanying the patient be covered?
- Is there a limit to the distance covered?
- What types of emergencies are covered?
It is important to note here that the only way to keep yourself away from a financial doom is to think about air ambulance when you’re healthy.
When a person is stuck in a challenging environment, nothing else is as effective as air ambulance flights that make use of hoists. Their presence not only ensures quick rescue but also saves a lot of time and effort when compared to a ground rescue, although they too have not been without hoist fatalities. However, that is a risk that the brave rescuers sometimes take. Here are some of the advantages, limitations, and risks associated with air ambulance flights that make use of hoists.
What Limits the Air Ambulance Flights?
- If the winds are moving at a speed greater than 20 miles per hour, if the visibility is poor or the weather is simply harsh, air ambulance flights may not undertake a rescue mission.
- There is a weight limit that comes with hoist operations and if the combined weight of the patient as well as the equipment exceeds 450 pounds, the mission might be abandoned.
- Hoist operations are never undertaken during night hours
- Conducting a hoist operation over water is tough and can be quite limiting.
The Factors taken into Consideration by Air Ambulance Flights
- The nearest location where the aircraft can be fueled
- Availability of landing area
- The location of the nearest command post
- All information related to the patient such as the weight, age, people along with the patient, etc
- Availability of a backup plan in case the mission cannot be carried out
The Different Types of Hoists Used by Air Ambulance Flights
- Rescuer Backpack: This contains hoist equipment that’s best suited for rescue along with some emergency medical equipment in anticipation of the injury.
- Bauman Bag: This equipment is used in winters when the injured patient needs to be kept warm. The bag is a splinter that fits automatically around the patient keeping him or her warm.
- Rescue Net: Here, the patient is placed prone in a rescue net which is then hooked to the hoist.
- Seat Harness: This is used primarily to rescue uninjured patients or to rescue those who have very minor injuries that do not pose any threat to life. Here, the harness is simply placed around the patient and hooked up to be hoisted away.
Carrying out hoist rescue missions requires special approval by FAA which is granted only after a rigorous certification process.
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.