Air ambulance operations are always critical. Among the critical operational aspects of a medical flight is handing off of the patient between medical flights and ground ambulances. If not done properly, it can lead to increased cost, loss of time and unnecessary lock down of valuable human resources. The efficiency at this juncture is all the more important because, usually, people from two different organizations have to come together to ensure a seamless transfer of the patient. In the event that each company has its own set of guidelines and procedures, things can get a bit complicated. It is for this reason that the Centers for Disease Control suggests a common methodology. Here we take a brief look at it.
The Planning of Hand Off between Ground and Air Ambulance
- Plan is the first thing that is to be put in place. It covers notifying each other of all developments. Beyond the ambulance companies, other organizations such as public health authority and law enforcement agency too might need to be notified.
- Communication of important aspects is another issue that must be taken care of – Does the patient have an infection? Is he or she ambulatory? Is there any special medical need? These are some of the questions, the answers to which both parties must have for communication to be effective.
- Location should be carefully chosen. It is not always about the nearest one. The patient may be a carrier of a highly infective virus. In a situation like this, the landing location should be such that the people in general can be easily isolated. The staff too must be aware that proper care should be taken to keep them from harm’s way. Adverse weather conditions are also important determinants of location. Media too can be an issue when it is a matter of national concern and can lead to a panic-like situation if information flow is not controlled.
There are several other aspects that must be taken care of. We will continue to focus on this subject in the coming days.
The soundest advice that can be given to someone who wants to pursue any career is this, “Do not rush into it.” The same goes for the career choice of being an airambulance paramedic. It is always wise to test waters before getting deep into it.
Most airambulance paramedics will tell you that there is no life experience that can prepare you for what will come your way on a given day. What matters most is the willingness to go beyond the call of duty to serve those who are in need. This is the most important prerequisite of being an airambulance paramedic.
The Right Airambulance Paramedic Training is Essential
It is not necessary to hold a degree to become an airambulance paramedic but it can lay the foundation for a fruitful career. You might come across as a more viable prospect to potential employers.
Look at the Programs Closely
Course material matters a lot. A quick glance through the syllabus will give you a brief idea of what you will learn. Don’t forget the human factor training as you do this. For instance, a good course will prepare you to handle a patient psychologically when the situation is critical.
Experience versus Books
A good course will place you in a real airambulance setup even when you are a student. This gives you an insight into the life that awaits you. Usually, good schools offer about a week’s experience on the field. It is, therefore, vital to know how well they are connected in the airambulance industry.
Prepare to Work Under Pressure
It is one thing to romanticize a critical situation and another to be in the midst of it. You cannot afford a panic when lives are at stake. You need to stand firm and do all that it takes to save the patient. If you think you have a personality trait like this then, the life of an airambulance paramedic will suit you.
Air ambulance services play a critical part in providing medical care on time for stroke victims. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 795 thousand people suffer strokes every year in the United States of America. Up to 140 thousand of these people die of stroke. Approximately 610 thousand people have never experienced stroke before. To put these numbers into perspective, one person has a stroke every 40 seconds on average in the country. All these people need air ambulance services to receive care on time. If not, they are at risk of suffering disability for the rest of their life.
Air Ambulance Services are Time Critical in Stroke
It is said that the chances of survival and complete recovery improve drastically if the patient receives care within the first three hours of the stroke. Air ambulance services play a major role in ensuring that this. The fact that rural doctors are moving towards urban areas and the reality that rural hospitals are closing at a rapid rate makes air ambulance services for such regions critical and life-saving. These patients are in need of high-level care facilities equipped to handle this medical condition.
The Economics of Stroke
In the US, cost of stroke treatment is approximately USD 34 billion annually. This includes the cost of care, medicines and loss of work revenue due to medical absence. Despite this, insurances only cover about 30 to 40% of the cost related to air ambulance services. Why? Because the reimbursement rates have not been revised for over 20 years, which puts a lot of financial strain on air ambulance services. The result – medical flight service providers are closing at a rapid rate, especially in rural America. If something is not done about this by the congress, it could turn out to be a grave situation for the people in the near future.
Working in the air ambulance industry can bring to fore those hidden emotions that people tend to burry up and no person is impervious to such emotional shakeup. Take for instance Prince Williams. The Duke has been quite vocal lately about mental health issues. However, he has hardly spoken about the loss of his mother out in public, apart from one time when he was about 15 years old. He lately opened up about it in the context of his stint as an air ambulance pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance company. He had been a part of it for about two years.
Prince William, Air Ambulance and His Emotions
The Prince had previously been a part of the nation’s defense forces and had ever served in Afghanistan. However, what churned up his hidden emotions related to his mother, Princess Diana, was his job as an air ambulance pilot. He said, finding himself in situations where death was always a possibility was hard to take on a daily basis. He added that the job as medical flight pilot made him depressed and the memories of having lost his mother at a young age surfaced quite often. He made his revelation as part of a documentary.
William Sharing His Feelings Sheds Light on the Mental Status of Air Ambulance Personnel
Air ambulance services are availed for life-threatening emergencies most of the time. The suffering patients who are under a lot of distress and struggling to stay alive can be quite impactful on the minds of the personnel. All this, while the crew cannot let their emotions get the better of them. Suppressing emotions becomes a norm and this pent up feeling can eventually lead to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. The industry needs to tackle this very seriously and focus towards having a mechanism that takes care of the mental wellbeing of the crew.
It is hard to believe that the future will see more efficient emergency transportation than air ambulances. However, it is true and that future is not very far. The advent of smart vehicles, autonomous driving technology, drones, electric power and the like are transforming emergency transportation today. In the age of patient centricity, the technology that suits the patients’ requirements will rule the industry. While vehicles capable of landing vertically will make a huge difference in treacherous plains, swiftly moving vehicles will be in demand when time is vital. Here, we take a brief look at the different technologies that are making waves today.
Flying Cars and Air Ambulances
Flying cars have been testing human imagination since the 1980s. Their biggest advantage is their ability to take off and land vertically, as well as the fact that they are highly compact. Now, with technology enabling efficient ground support, it will come as no surprise if we see flying cars being used as air ambulances. The other major advantage from the air ambulance service providers’ point of view is the ability to store or park these vehicles without much expense. The current system where they are expected to hire spaces in large hangars can be done away with if flying cars become a reality and can in turn bring down the cost of availing the service too.
Drones and Autonomous Vehicles
A lot of innovation and research has gone into autonomous vehicles and drones. In fact, a combination of these technologies can be quite exciting. Imagine a scenario where an air ambulance company dispatches an autonomous drone capable of handling heavy loads while controlling it remotely. There would not be a need for pilot. This will also make more space for the patient in the compact vehicle, where he or she gets all the life support required.
The technology that guides air ambulances will further improve as artificial intelligence, internet of things, big data and the like progress.
Medical flights are nothing to look forward to but preparing for them does take the stress off somewhat. Let’s look at different aspects of medical air transport and see how you can be prepared for them.
Here are a few details that the flight coordinator will ask you. Keep them handy when you go on a call with one.
- The name of the patient
- Date of birth of the patient
- Weight as well as height of the patient
- The mobility status of the patient: can he walk, sit, stand, etc.
- Contact information of the patient and/or the caregivers
- Specify the need for special equipments such as oxygen, intravenous lines, etc.
- Health insurance details
If the patient is being transferred from one treating facility to another, you must have the following records handy:
- Copy of the health insurance documents
- Copy of the discharge summary as well as the most recent copy of history and physical exam
Before Boarding Medical Flights
There are specifications that medical flights lay down when it comes to luggage that the person accompanying the patient can carry. Know about that well in advance. Also, there are usually limitations on the number of people who can accompany the patient. Usually, it’s just one person. The person accompanying must bring along an identification document.
If You Make Receiving Arrangements
There are instances where people make bookings well in advance so that the patient is admitted to the hospital that his or her family desires. If that’s the case with you too, inform the care coordinator in advance so that a land ambulance can be arranged to take the patient to the treating facility. If the receiving facility has a helipad, then the coordinator will keep the hospital informed of your arrival so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
Air medical transport paramedics often encounter patients when they are in their worst possible physical condition. Many a times the victims are desperate out of pain or the sheer will to survive. With so much going on around them, air medical transport paramedics are expected to be stoic so that their actions and emotions do not get in the way of performing their life-saving duties effectively. Imagine a situation where you are the one who has to break the news to a family that there’s nothing more that can be done to save the life of the one they love. Imagine another situation where a murderer, while running away from the cops, injures himself gravely. The paramedic would still have to attend to this felon with equal professionalism without letting personal emotions getting in the way.
Air Medical Transport Paramedics Face Assaults too
Air medical transport paramedics sometimes have to treat people under the influence of drugs and alcohol who do not behave logically. This can lead to assaults and threats. They are expected to remain unaffected by such occurring and to carry out their duties. Also, in the field, there are protocols that need to be followed. This means a paramedic, despite knowing what treatment is to be provided, might not be authorized to administer such treatment. Situations like these can lead to a lot of frustration.
The Physical Aspects of the Job
Paramedics have to do a lot of heavy lifting and moving as part of their job. Injuries to the lower back, wrists and shoulders are not rare among paramedics for this reason. The long hours of work only add to these problems. The lack of rest during extreme emergencies can lead to a lot of physical fatigue which can manifest in mental irritation as well. The only solace through all this is the fact that the job actually makes a difference to people’s lives.
People with a flair for adventure and a want to do good for the society are the ones who usually choose a career in the air ambulance industry. Of course, money is a criterion too and, for the most part, remuneration too is considered good. We have, in the past, pointed out that there is going to be a continually huge demand for air ambulance technicians and pilots in the days to come and the demand will last for almost a decade or even more. However, not many people understand that the industry is at the cusp of a disruption for the good and technology is leading this change. In the days to come, innovation will drive the industry to bring about efficiency in cost, customer experiences and operations.
How Technology Drives Air Ambulance Flying Experiences
The way customer data is utilized by air ambulance companies will determine what kind of experience they ultimately provide to their customers. Their health needs can be taken care of more efficiently. This data also opens up ancillary sales opportunities. For example, the luxury that a patient is used to or the expectations of the person accompanying the patient can be gleaned through the various online tools at our disposal today.
There is also connected technology or IoT or Internet of Things, which connects the various parts of a flight to the ground staff for ongoing monitoring of its flight worthiness. The technology can even make predictive maintenance possible wherein an air ambulance organization can predict a problem that the aircraft might encounter and take anticipatory action to avoid the problem all together.
Newer Technology Means Newer Opportunities
With all these technologies proving useful for the air ambulance industry, the innovative digital skills needed for their implementation will be in high demand. People looking for a career in the air ambulance sector have a wider career option today.
Imagine this: the medical flight has emergency personnel seated in it and is en route to pick up a patient in a remote area but there’s one crucial member of the crew missing. Guess who? The pilot! Yes, that’s right! The medical flight technology is slowly moving toward autonomous flights that are sans pilots. If this sounds like science fiction to you, here’s a surprise. SkyRyse, which is a Silicon Valley start up, is already testing autonomous helicopters in emergency settings. It is known to have carried police and emergency personnel safely in response to mock emergency calls and the testing will continue.
How Safe is the Autonomous Medical Flight Technology?
Experts feel that it is quite safe. It is believed that the flights use the same technology that is used in driverless cars. A combination of software and hardware that is continually monitored from the control room and a medical flight that is controlled by itself – that about sums up what this technology is all about. Although the technology is still in a nascent stage, it will make huge strides in the days to come. A lot of this technology’s development will depend on machine learning and artificial intelligence which will allow it to learn the nuances of flying without any human intervention.
The Factors that will Make this Technology a Success
Ask yourself this question, “Am I ready to take a medical flight that does not have a pilot?” Trust of the customers in the new technology is going to be a decisive factor. Then there is the cost. It is a tussle between the cost of acquiring such a technology and the return on investment that it ultimately brings. Will this new technology demand high maintenance cost? Or will it reduce it? Regulations are another factor. Innovations that have the potential to give rise to safety risks typically take longer to get government approvals. For now, it’s a wait and watch for all of us.
Perhaps the biggest problem that people who avail medical air transportation services face is unexpected costs that run into thousands of dollars, even when they are covered by their health insurance policies. Now, a new bill has been passed by the state of Virginia that seeks to end this uncertainty. The bill is called ‘Air Medical Transportation; Informed Decision’. The bill was introduced by Jeremy S. McPike and it went into effect on March 1, 2019. It was passed by the House and Senate of Virginia with zero votes against it recently. Here, we discuss what this bill will mean for the common citizens.
What is Virginia Medical Air Transportation Bill All About?
The bill mandates that hospitals establish processes, which necessitate giving an electronic or written notice to the patients or their authorized representatives. The notice should contain the cost implications of availing medical air transportation services. It should also contain the alternative options including emergency ground ambulance options. If the medical air transportation is out of network of the patient’s health insurance, this fact too must be made apparent. Even if the medical air transportation is covered only in part, it has to be brought to the attention of the patient or his/her authorized representative.
What will the New Bill will do for the Patients?
Patients in Virginia will now have the power to choose whether they want to avail medical air transportation services. Further, it will let them know the cost implications beforehand so that they do not get any nasty surprises in the form of huge bills later on. It is a good attempt by the state to bring about transparency in billing.
It is hoped that the medical insurance companies and the medical air transportation industry will ultimately come to an understanding with regards to costs, facilitated by this bill.