When time is of essence, no other transport is as effective as a medical flight. That said, there are limitations to this mode of medical transport too. A lot of issues also stem up owing to the fact that medical flight services are a recent addition all over the world. While they have been prevalent since decades, the extent of prevalence has shot up drastically in recent times. Here, we list a few limitations that one must be aware of.
Medical Flight Services have Limited Hours of Operation
According to law, no pilot can work more than a 12-hour shift in a day, regardless of whether he or she flies or not. Of course, some of the pilot’s time goes into the routine upkeep of flight logs, etc. but this does not necessarily mean the professional is paid less, and having several pilots is not a feasible option for most medical flight operators.
Extreme Weather Conditions can be a Problem
Think of land ambulances, their operation remains almost unaffected in any weather condition, but medical flight services are no insulated from this. Even the slightest hint sometimes can prevent their take off. It’s important to note there that haste to save a patient’s life can endanger the lives of the crew members.
Medical Flight Landing and Take Off
It is stating the obvious but airplanes naturally need proper landing facilities. Helicopters, on the other hand, can do with less space but it becomes a problem when receiving hospitals do not have a helipad, especially in urban areas, where space is always an issue.
Highly Trained Professionals are a Must
There could be two problems here. The first is finding highly experienced professionals to become crew members; this can prove tedious. Second, experience comes at a price and can, in turn, shoot up the costs.
Injuries can occur without prior warning, anytime, anywhere. It is a real possibility that you may one day find yourself in a situation where you need to care for a critically injured person until a medical flight arrives. Know that you can make a difference and there is a lot you can do to help the injured. However, first things first; call the 911 before you even attempt anything. Faster the paramedics reach the better. If the accident site is in the middle of nowhere, make that know clearly to the responder. There is a good possibility that the paramedics themselves will arrive in a medical flight for quick evacuation.
Your Role in the Meantime
The fastest that a paramedic or emergency services can arrive is 6 to 9 minutes. While these initial minutes may sound like a small time, they can prove to be the difference between life and death. The first thing to check is whether the patient is breathing normally and whether there is a wound that is letting blood out rapidly. First clamp the blood using a piece of cloth as a tourniquet. Position the patient such that the blood flow is against gravity. Administer CPR if necessary. Observe yourself; feeling stressed and nauseous in such situations is normal. Try and clear your thoughts and focus on the critical victim.
Stay Safe till the Medical Flight or Other Form of Help Arrives
Bravado is bad, especially if you are stuck with the victim in a tough terrain. The best you can do is tell the 911 responder exactly what has happened and answer the questions clearly. Apart from that ensuring that the patient is conscious by talking to them, controlling bleeding, positioning the patient right and administering CPR if necessary is the only thing that you can do. Remember, there are laws to protect you like the Good Samaritan Act that keeps you shielded from any legal liabilities in situations like these, so never shy away from helping.
Booking a medical flight can seem like a daunting task, especially in light of the fact that you would be booking an entire airplane for yourself. However, it is entirely different from booking a charter plane. In most cases, all you need to do is make a call to set things up. Here, we bring you a rough step-wise guide. Although the process may vary slightly depending on the medical flight provider, it would broadly remain the same.
Begin with a Simple Call to the Medical Flight Provider
Better still, you can simply fill an online form requesting the provider to contact you. Remember, at this stage, you are merely asking for price quotes and evaluating the options before you. Do not commit to booking a medical flight at this point. Also, it is recommended that you call multiple medical flight providers before zeroing on one. Expect questions like your current location, destination, and the diagnosis of the patient. Most providers will get back to you within 30 minutes and give you a price quote.
Ask What the Cost Covers
Ideally, the costs should include ground transport from and to the hospital and airport, medical crew and aircraft charges, equipment fee, landing fee, and a few other miscellaneous fees that should not amount to a lot. If any of these are left out, proactively ask about them so that you get a clear idea of what you are getting into.
Confirmation and the Ensuing Process
Once you confirm that you want to take the medical flight services from a particular provider, you will be asked for personal details like name, date of birth, weight, etc. You will also be asked about the desired time and date of transportation. You will have to give your passport details if you are flying international. You will have to specify whether a person would be accompanying you and also the amount of luggage that you would be carrying.
A medical flight becomes a necessity when travelling long distances on commercial flights is impossible, owing to the level of care that the patient’s health demands. On the brighter side, it gives the family members enough time to prepare for one. There are several things that the medical flight service provider will help the family and the patient with. However, being knowledgeable about certain aspects of the travel makes it easier for the family. The family must be prepared with the history and physical as well as the discharge summary of the patient, along with copies of insurance cards. Government issued identification is also necessary.
Limitations while Availing a Medical Flight Service
The patient’s family must understand that the medical flight is designed for the patient and carries a huge amount of medical equipment. Unlike, a commercial flight, it is not exactly designed for normal commuters. So, the family members must consult with the medical flight provider as to the maximum luggage that can be carried. It is usually about a 21-inch roller bag that is allowed. Some air ambulances do not allow for family members to accompany the patient in the medical flight; however, most of them accommodate at least one family member. It all depends on the space available and the size of the air ambulance. A quick check with the flight coordinator is always a wise move.
Availing International Air Ambulance Services
It is a given that the family must ensure that the patient’s passport, visa, travel documents and insurance are in place. It is advisable to also carry electronic copies of all the documents for easy retrieval and backup. A detailed discussion regarding the receiving hospital and the logistics between the airport and the hospital is advised. While experienced medical flight coordinators cover such things, there is no harm in knowing the details.
The United States of America is among the most expensive countries when it comes to health care. Of course, the quality of health care and the due diligence conducted is exemplary. However, not many citizens are able to afford much-needed health care in the absence of proper insurance. Now, couple this with the cost of medical flight services during emergencies. All these factors put together can form the perfect recipe for an imminent bankruptcy or at least a financial disaster that might take a lifetime to recover from.
Several Medical Flight Services Offer Discounts
We have seen a lot of instances where medical flight providers are forthcoming with discounts when the insurance carriers refuse to cover the expenses. However, this is not always enough. The compounding medical bills along with the medical flight expense can be quite high. So, what is the solution? It does not seem that the state governments capping the air ambulance fee is not simply enough. The question arises: is there a better way to handle this situation? Well, there is and it could be a joint responsibility.
Charity Medical Flight Services Could be the Answer
The United Kingdom has long relied on charity for the medical flight services. It’s not that maintaining air ambulances is cheaper in that country. However, it is often seen that medical flight services are a community affair. One comes across several instances where people go to great length to raise money for medical flight charities. Even Prince William has been a part of a charity medical flight service before. One finds that victims of accidents, invariably after their recovery pay for the act of kindness through fund-raising efforts. The country sees lotteries that had held to raise money regularly. Most importantly, the citizens and non-profit organizations together have realized the importance of such services for the good of humankind.
More often than not, we hear about skyrocketing medical flight bills that families are forced to pay. While it is natural for such families to feel victimized, having some prior knowledge about insurance coverage can prove helpful. If you are among those people who feel all they need to do is pay health insurance premiums, sit back and relax, here’s some news: your most basic health needs might not be covered. This mostly happens when the medical service provider is out of network.
Out of Network Medical Flights can Be Expensive
Take the case of 8-year-old Ben Millheim who met with an unfortunate accident fracturing his skull. The injury necessitated using a medical flight service to a hospital about 100 miles from the site of injury. While the boy survived and recovered well, his parents are still reeling under the $32,000 medical flight bill. Unfortunately for them, the medical flight service that they had used was out of their insurance network. As a result they are now liable to pay the service provider the ‘balance bill.’ In other words, they have to now shell out of their pockets the amount that their insurance provider has refused to pay the medical flight company for the reason that it does not come in their network.
It’s Almost Always a No-win Situation for Patients
Life-threatening injuries leave little room for checking whether a particular medical flight service provider is covered by the health insurance. While insurance companies flatly refuse to bear such expenses, it has been seen that air ambulance companies usually offer a discount to such patients. Plus, several states in the United States have passed legislation to limit balance billing; however, some states like Missouri have not. It must also be noted that there is no federal regulation that governs balance billing, leaving people vulnerable.
You’re starting your first job as a medical flight paramedic, and you’re wondering how you should prepare for it. Of course you’ve already had thorough medical training but that may not be enough to ensure that you can succeed in your journey. There are several rules that you should remember and follow.
Rule #1: Protect your crew members
When you’re working as an air ambulance paramedic, you’d be working with a crew that comprises of pilots and nurses or even a doctor. And there may be times when you have to carry out missions that could be dangerous for the crew. It’s crucial that you work together as a team and watch each other’s backs whenever you’re responding to a call.
Rule #2: Practice incident documentation and patient recording
Another crucial part of your job as a medical flight paramedic is to ensure that you properly document every incident you respond to. And you must carefully record details about your patient so that there’s a smooth transition from your care to that of hospital personnel. You can’t afford to slack off when it comes to this, as even a minor detail missing or incorrect could have serious consequences.
Rule #3: Medical flight paramedics should always be friendly
A smile can make a huge difference for the patients you’re attending to and their family members. It’s important that you try to maintain a certain level of friendliness whenever you’re on duty. And try to ensure that this friendliness extends to your colleagues and your crew members as well.
Rule #4: Do everything in your power to help your patient
Another important rule is to make sure that your patients are as comfortable as possible. Even if it’s not within your job description, you should do whatever you can to help your patients – whether they require more pillows or an extra blanket, for instance.
As an air ambulance provider, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your staff. This is particularly important for your medical flight paramedics, because there is a high possibility of them getting injured. We’ve even highlighted some of the causes of injury in two of our previous posts. So in this post, we’re going to discuss some of the ways in which you can improve workplace safety and prevent injury among your staff.
Enhancing Equipment Safety
The first thing you need to look at is your equipment. If you went through the previous posts, you would have seen that medical flight paramedics are commonly injured while lifting patients. So the best thing to do to prevent such injuries is to replace your traditional manual cots with powered patient transport equipment.
These will significantly reduce the physical strain on your paramedics. In turn, this will reduce the likelihood of experiencing injury. You could install assisted loading systems that will support the cot and make it easier for paramedics to load and unload patients onto the aircraft.
You should also equip your aircrafts with safety equipment that your paramedics can easily access when needed. This would include safety masks, gloves, and gowns to protect them from exposure to harmful substances.
Enhancing Medical Flight Safety
In addition to enhancing the safety of your equipment, you should also consider the safety of your aircraft. Whether you’re operating fixed-wing aircrafts or helicopters, you should do a thorough maintenance that will ensure optimum safety for your crew.
Have proper storage systems installed for your equipment, so that paramedics can easily access them when needed while at the same time preventing the equipment from exposure. And make sure you have a routine check of your engines and inbuilt flight equipment.
If you’re working as an air ambulance paramedic, you have to carry out physically straining tasks occasionally. Combined this with a more pedantic lifestyle when you’re off-duty or not on call, you could end up with different types of muscle pains and physical strain. One of the most common types of pains that medical flight paramedics can encounter is knee pain.
Find Out What Causes the Knee Pain
The first thing you need to do when you’re suffering from knee pain is to identify what is the root cause. If it wasn’t caused by physical trauma to the knee area, there’s a good chance you can prevent the issue from reoccurring. It’s easy to get pain in the knee due to a slight mistake in movement while stepping or climbing or even squatting.
In some cases, even if the pain is occurring in your knee the main cause of the problem may be at a completely different part of the body. So it’s important to get to the root of the issue if medical flight paramedics want to gain long-term relief from knee pain.
Knee Pain Solutions for Medical Flight Paramedics
Try stretching your legs by putting them on the table with your knee facing downwards. Your knee should be in line with your hip joint. If you can do this, it means everything is okay with the functionality of your glutes. The stretch might even help in relieving the pain on your knees to some extent.
You should invest in a good foam roller that you can use for 10 minutes every day. Use it on every part of your joints and muscles that are prone to pain such as your inner thigh, calves, hamstrings, and glutes. This not only decreases the pain but also loosens up the muscles to prevent further strain.
Last week, we discussed three common patient statements that should have you concerned. But those are not the only statements that you should be concerned about while you’re serving as a medical flight paramedic. There may be several other statements that sound simple enough but should be taken very seriously so that they don’t result in bigger problems.
When Medical Flight Paramedics Should be Concerned
Here are some more patient statements that you should be wary of and take seriously instead of just dismissing them:
- When a patient doesn’t want to go to a specific hospital – Every now and then you might come across a patient who does not want to be taken to a certain hospital and tells you so. There may be a good reason for this based on their past experiences. In some cases, it may be because they are dissatisfied with the level of care provided.
But in other cases, it may also be because the hospital has records or knowledge of the patient’s medical history, which the patient has been hiding from you. So make sure you ask the reason why they don’t want to go to a specific hospital.
- When a patient is dismissing their problem for a minor one – It’s important to pay close attention when a patient tries to dismiss the pain or problem they’re experiencing as a result of a minor issue. For example, the patient may explain that the discomfort in their chest is probably because of indigestion.
There’s a chance that the patient is in denial and is ignoring the signs of a major health issue. In this instance, it could be a sign of an oncoming heart attack. The patient may be looking to reassure themselves that it’s nothing serious. So it’s important for medical flight paramedics to assess patients more carefully when they’re dismissing their problem for a minor one.