Air ambulance services are dispatched only when the emergency is dire and time is of critical nature. Many a times, the only contact with a patient or a victim is over the phone. As a consequence response professionals in emergency call centers are forced to rely entirely on their experience to determine the condition of the patient. Most times, the patient himself is unaware what is wrong with him. For instance, a person having a cardiac attack might not even realize that he is having one. The response professionals are forced to rely on qualified guess work. All this can change with the introduction of artificial intelligence technology.
Offering Better Air Ambulance Services with Artificial Intelligence
Imagine a situation where analyzing patient condition is done by an algorithm that continuously learns by analyzing patterns in data. It eventually becomes capable enough of offering diagnostic suggestions based on the description of symptoms, speech pattern, breathing frequency, etc. It would go further prompting the response professional to ask the right kind of questions to aid in understanding what the patient is going through. Wouldn’t that be amazing? It is no longer a science fiction; this is now a possibility, thanks to artificial intelligence. If implemented, it can take air ambulance services to a whole new level.
How Does Artificial Intelligence Learn
As mentioned earlier, it is all about forming patters through a combination of cases. All that an artificial intelligence algorithm would need is call recordings made by patients to air ambulance services over a period of time. It would have been pre-programmed to find patterns of symptoms to come up with a diagnosis.
It is all about data and analyzing it. The added advantage is that this data becomes a ready base to study populations, injury patterns (especially in road accidents) so that safety measures can be bolstered to increase safety. The applications are several and are only limited by one’s imagination.
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.
Search and rescue are an integral part of operations performed by air ambulance services around the world, especially when the terrain is tough to handle by ground rescue forces alone. All this could change with drones taking up the search part of the entire operation. This will be made possible by the drones designed by the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, popularly referred to as MIT. Wireless communication and computation technology will form the basis of these drones. Although these drones are still in the concept stage, if implemented, they could supplement the task of air ambulance services effectively.
The Concept to Support Air Ambulance Services to be Presented Soon
The conference titled ‘International Symposium on Experimental Robotics’ will be the venue where the concept will be presented. The drones would be equipped with laser range finders and will be able to draw up a 3-dimensional map of tough terrain that will help air ambulance services. Among the key researchers of this concept is Yulun Tian who is a graduate student at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
The Future of the Drone Research
Although not in the scope of the current presentation, eventually, the researchers hope that the drones will be able to tag the person in need of help in tough terrains. This will be made possible by object detection and matching it with missing persons.
The drone prototypes have already been tested through several simulations. In fact, it has been tested once in a dense forest area successfully. In this trial, two drones were able to map a radius of 20 square meters in just 5 minutes. If this concept sees the light of the day, the air ambulance services around the world will certainly become more efficient and will bring down the cost of search and rescue. For now, we will simply have to wait and watch.
It’s not every time that you get to choose the air ambulance services of your choice – after all emergencies do not knock the door before entering your life. But during those times that you do get to choose the right one for you, it pays (literally) to be well prepared. So, what are those parameters that you need to look at? That’s precisely the question we answer here.
How Experienced are the Personnel Hired by the Air Ambulance Services?
This is the foremost question that you need to ask. Remember, once onboard the air ambulance, the patient’s well being is entirely in the hands of these medical professionals. While most air ambulance services are particular about experienced staff, it is always wise to proactively ask about it. Four to five years is a decent benchmark.
That’s a big one. Simply put, you do not want to come home to a huge medical bill welcoming you with open arms, only to engulf you in a lifetime of debt. Remember, out-of-coverage air ambulance services are not what you want. So, always know what your health insurance carrier covers. Know whether and to what extent your insurance covers air ambulance services.
Explore Cheaper Alternatives
Not all situations demand that you have an entire air ambulance to yourself. Air Ambulance stretchers and air medical escorts are alternatives that you can weigh. Of course, your treating physician is the one who will give you the best perspective here.
Non-Medical Support from Air Ambulance Services
Does the air ambulance service provider also have insurance specialists? How effective is their logistics team? Do they arrange for ambulances from the landing area to the hospital? These are some of the questions that you need to ask.
Look for Reviews Pertaining to Air Ambulance Services
Testimonials, social media pages, and review websites are ideal for some research about the air ambulances services. If a lot of the patients have had bad experiences, you are better off steering clear of such a provider.
The benefits of air ambulance services over ground ambulance have long been debated by people who have been concerned about the rising costs of patient evacuations. In fact, there was a fierce debate over the unnecessary use of air ambulance services when in 2013 two children were flown utilizing air ambulance services for minor injuries. While some in the EMS industry blamed it on bad decision by the medical staff on the ground, others blamed it on the air ambulance industry itself. Let’s take a look at both these modes of medical evacuation objectively.
What does the NCBI say about Air Ambulance Services?
National Center for Biotechnology Information had conducted a survey on the efficacy of air ambulance services that involved helicopters. A total of 45 patients were included in the study. It was definitively concluded that air ambulance services are much more efficient when it comes to saving time. The report also noted that the need to save time must be equated with the medical emergency before taking the decision. The study, however, was conducted way back in 2006 and the ground reality has changed considerably since then.
Report on Air Ambulance Services by Canadian Journal of Surgery
A more recent study was conducted by the Canadian Journal of Surgery. In fact, the study was conducted last year. The review was an extensive one and collected data over the past decade. The main objective was to compare outcomes between ground and air ambulance services with respect to interventions, injuries and outcomes. A total of 14,440 patients were taken into consideration.
The results left no doubt that the rate of death associated with air ambulance services was much less when compared to ground ambulance services. The reason for this was that the air ambulance services could reach speciality treatment centers within a shorter span of time when compared to ground ambulances.
It must be concluded that the efficacy of air ambulance services cannot be doubted. However, there is a need for careful medical deliberation before opting for an air ambulance.
Choosing air ambulance services is never easy, but what if there is an indicator of the efficiency? This is exactly what CAMTS certification brings. CAMTS stands for Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. There are several benefits associated with this certification for both consumers and also air ambulance services. The entire certification process is voluntary. Here, we discuss some of these benefits.
Benefits for Air Ambulance Services
The air ambulance services that receive CAMTS certification enjoy lower insurance premiums as part of this accreditation involves showing commitment towards safety. There are certain contracts that a hospital or a state department may reserve only for certified air ambulance services. An accredited company can reap these benefits. The company also enjoys a certain prestige among competitors and consumers. The whole certification process can be a bit time consuming. It also costs money but it is worth the benefits that come along with it.
Benefits for Consumers of Air Ambulance Services
The fact that an air ambulance company is CAMTS certified means that it follows a high safety standard. This is ultimately what a consumer or patient wants. Medical emergencies that demand air ambulance services can be stressful and there’s usually not enough time to look into the reputation and safety standards of an air ambulance company. However, preferring a CAMTS certified company is an easy decision.
The Process of CAMTS Certification for Air Ambulance Services
The entire process begins with the air ambulance company critically evaluating itself. This allows the organization to better understand its strengths and weaknesses. Inspections are conducted to assess the company’s practices. If there is room for improvement, the inspectors make relevant suggestions and later see to it that they are implemented. Once the air ambulance company satisfies all the set standards, it is awarded the certification. Air ambulance services that take the pain of undergoing such scrutiny display that they truly care for the patients that they carry onboard.
It’s often a long and painful wait for an organ donor, no matter which part of the world you’re from. The number of donors around the world is much lesser than those waiting for a donor. Then, there is the issue of organ suitability. All these issues make finding an organ a prized opportunity. It is also vital that the organ reaches the recipient on time and this is where the air ambulance services often come into picture.
How Do Air Ambulance Services Help?
Air ambulance services help transport organs from the remotest of the places to the recipient in the shortest possible time. While air ambulance choppers are used for short distances, fixed wing medical aircrafts are used for longer distances. The air ambulance services are always available on-call in situations like these where a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Air ambulance services are considered 100% safe when transporting organs such as kidneys and liver. There are instances where even heart has been airlifted.
What Makes Air Ambulance Services Ideal for Organ Transport?
Two obvious reasons are the reach and the time taken by air ambulance services. The sophisticated aircrafts also provide a congenial environment for carrying the human organs. Unexpected eventualities like road blocks are virtually nonexistent. The air ambulance services also pave way to carry the patient quickly – with all necessary medical care – to a facility that specializes in organ transplantation. We need to understand that often recipients too are carried to a particular location, depending on factors such as time and availability of specialized hospitals.
The point to note is that most air ambulance services will take complete responsibility of coordinating the entire transport so that the organ reaches safely and on time. There are also insurance covers available to cover such air ambulance services. All it takes is a bit of planning and coordinated effort.
It is natural that you only want the best for your loved ones. When an elderly relative has to travel from one place to another, you might face the dilemma of whether you should be hiring air ambulance services or not. In the absence of a directive from a qualified medical professional, air ambulance services might not be covered by your insurance or Medicare. Bearing the huge cost of air ambulance services is not something every individual can bear. In circumstances like these, you must consider medical escort services, which are cost effective. However, a medical escort is not best suited in all situations.
Can Medical Escorts Substitute Air Ambulance Services?
There cannot be a one-word answer to this question. First criterion to avail a medical escort service is that the patient should be deemed medically stable by a qualified medical professional. An unstable patient might need to be carried utilizing air ambulance services only.
If the patient needs only basic medical management such as administration of medicines, oxygen and monitoring, air ambulance services might not be warranted at all. Such services can be provided by a medical escort.
Are Air Ambulance Services and Medical Escort Services Similar?
Of course, you won’t have a fully equipped air ambulance at your disposal and the number of qualified personnel at your service would be limited. However, there are still a lot of similarities and this is one of the reasons why most air ambulance service providers also offer medical escort services. The coordination for bed to bed transfer is often taken care of. This involves coordinating with both sending and receiving hospitals as well as ground transport facilities.
Most medical escorts know the local language of the destination that you travel to. They also possess high level of experience having worked in emergency situations. So, even if you are travelling with a single medical escort, you are still in safe hands. Also, there is a huge cost difference when compared to air ambulance services. However, one needs to remember that in case of emergencies, medical escort services are never a substitute.
Shauna Laswell recently suffered chest pains and was taken to a local hospital; however, she was diagnosed as having a heart attack. She had to be emergently flown via air ambulance to a Las Vegas hospital. Shauna did get great care and survived the medical emergency. When she received the bill, she was just short of having another heart attack – it was a whopping $38,800! Thanks to her insurance provider who did not cover the air ambulance cost, she got a reimbursement of only $6,200.
Why Was Shauna’s Air Ambulance Bill Not Covered?
Anyone would wonder why air ambulance bill was not covered, as heart attack is a life-threatening situation and definitely warrants an air ambulance flight. For one, the nearest medical facility was not the one she was taken to. Insurances only cover the distance to the appropriate nearest medical facilities. So, the vital question is, “What can I do to avoid a situation like this?”
Few Tips to Ensure Adequate Air Ambulance Insurance Coverage
Remember that only travel to the nearest medical facility is covered by insurance. Also, you are better off hiring the services of the air ambulance attached to the hospital, rather than hiring an independent medical flight service. The ones attached to the hospital are usually cheaper.
Look at the kind of coverage that your insurance provider provides. If there are clauses that keep you from getting full air ambulance cost coverage, steer away from such providers. Most air ambulance services have membership programs. Being a member of such a program gives you immunity against the amount not covered by insurance company. The air ambulance company itself would cover such amount.
Be prepared for eventualities. Air ambulances are being increasingly used these days. So, request for the air ambulance provider that you prefer. Know the air ambulance services that are affiliated with your insurance provider.
Most of the time, insurance companies do not cover 100% of the charges for air ambulance services. The Utah State Insurance Department has even issued a warning to the public in this regard.
We’ve already discussed several criteria which need to be satisfied for air ambulance services to be covered by Medicare. We also know that an air ambulance service is not covered when you have ground ambulance available. We’ve also discussed the fact that only medical air transportation to the nearest “appropriate” medical facility is covered by Medicare. Well, this is not entirely true. You stand to gain at least part coverage in the above two situations through the Special Coverage Rule. It helps:
- People who feel air ambulance services are absolutely warranted contrary to what medical professionals opine
- People who are comfortable admitting the patient to the facility of their choice only
Understanding Air Ambulance Services in the Context of Special Coverage Rule
It is important to note here that the coverage is not extended to places that are not acute care facilities. Places such as physician’s office, nursing facility or the patient’s home would be excluded.
You Prefer Air Ambulance over Ground Ambulance: Now let’s suppose that the medical experts feel that an air ambulance is not warranted and the ground ambulance would suffice. In such a case, Medicare would pay an amount that would have afforded you ground ambulance. The rest of the money would have to be born by you. This amount may be small and would only offer a negligible respite.
You Want the Medical Facility of Your Choice: On the other hand, the medical experts might feel that air ambulance services are warranted. Here, you would be required to transfer the patient to the nearest appropriate facility. However, if you decide to transport the patient utilizing air ambulance services to a facility of your choice, which is at a greater distance than the nearest one, the cost of extra distance to reach it (from the nearest facility) would have to be born by you.
Remember, the air ambulance service provider can ask you for documentation, which clearly indicates that air ambulance services are necessary. Failing to produce the document can mean that you have to pay for the services and then claim it from Medicare.