Medical flight services demand that the organization providing it coordinates with several agencies to bring the patient a seamless experience. This includes coordinating with ground staff, last-mile transportation to the hospital, contacting the receiving hospital, coordinating with local authorities, the list goes on. Amid all this, there is always the possibility of a data leak. Sensitive health data pertaining to the patient may fall into the hands of undesirable sources and lead to legal complications. Of course, the biggest concern for the medical flight services would be to remain in compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA. The act guides how and when data can be shared and patient consent requirements.
Application Programming Interface Can Help Medical Flight Services
Data transfer through an application programming interface, popularly known as API is ideal for medical flight services. Here the data transfer takes place between two computer systems without any manual intervention. Moreover, the data transfer takes place in an encrypted format, which makes data leaks impossible. It is a sure-shot way to ensure that a company that is involved in offering air ambulance services is shielded from the possible negative implications as a consequence of not following HIPAA rules inadvertently.
Training the Staff is Also Important
Building strong technology is important no doubt but that does not mean that the human element is ignored. Air ambulance services employ several people. These people may come in contact with patient data in one way or the other. For instance, the patient medical history in a document form is a necessity for in-flight care of the patient. It is, therefore, imperative that the staff is well aware of what constitutes sensitive data and how to handle it. Even a casual conversation about the patient with the wrong person can lead to legal hassles for the organization that offers medical flight services.
A recent survey has shown that medical flight services are now more open to insurance network participation. In fact, the numbers have gone up by a healthy 20%. It has also been seen that the medical flight services and insurance companies are holding intense discussions and negotiations surrounding in-network arrangements.
The reason behind this change has been the huge increase in consumer demand and also to steer clear of the negative publicity that both the industries have been subject to in recent times. The efforts by the state governments to regulate air ambulance pricing and also getting insurance companies onboard with their cost-controlling measures have seen a lot of backlash recently.
The Medical Flight Services and their Cost Compulsions
The refusal of the insurance companies to take cognizance of the fact that maintaining medical flight services is an expensive affair – some say – was the cause of all the misunderstanding. Air ambulance companies usually spend a fortune to remain on standby for emergencies. The cost, of course, is then transferred to their services. When insurance companies refuse to foot these costs, the burden unfortunately is transferred to the patients who avail the service. This is a practice that is popular as ‘balance billing’.
How In-Network Coverage Helps
Customers are able to enjoy discounted and ‘fair’ out-of-pocket expenses to cover medical flight services when in-network coverage becomes a reality. In an ideal world, all air ambulance services providers must be in-network. However, the onus of it does not lie only on these emergency service providers. The insurance organizations too must be willing to reimburse a fair amount. Otherwise, it simply does not make business sense for medical flight services to join any network.
The good news, however, seems to be that both these industries are coming around and finding common grounds to work together.
It has almost become a norm to blame organizations that offer medical flight services but not many people take the time or the effort to understand why they charge so steeply. While it cannot be denied that there is a definite profit motive as these are commercially operated organizations, there is more to their expenses than what meets the eye. The costs are not simply limited to the fuel that is utilized, there are far wider factors in play that push the costs up and we explore some of these.
The Major Expenses that All Medical Flight Services Must Meet
Typically, an air ambulance does not undertake more than three missions in a day. For the rest of the time, this highly expensive machine is simply forced to sit idle. Moreover, it does not fly a single mission several days in a year. While this is a fact, the cost of the funds raised to acquire it continues to compound. Same is the case with the base; medical flight services need a place to park the choppers and fixed-wing aircrafts throughout the year and the rent is, obviously, an added cost that needs to be borne.
The Expenses of Maintaining a Highly Qualified Team
Highly experienced pilots, paramedics, nurses and the technicians are just some of the staff members that medical flight services need to hire. Then, there are support staff, operational staff and the management staff too.
Utmost care is taken to ensure that the crew is properly rested. This translates into stipulated work hours regardless of there being a call for medical flight services or not. Of course, many of the crew members also take care of other duties while the air ambulance is docked; nevertheless, it is an expensive affair. Constant upgrades and training are other sources of expense, not to forget the expenses of remaining compliant with ever-changing regulations.
Over the past few years, the medical flight services have steadily risen in cost, so much so that the cost has gone up at a whopping 5% per annum since almost the past 7 years. There have been concerted efforts on the part of state governments and the federal government to bring the cost of medical flight services down, at least to a ‘reasonable’ level. However, the definition of what is reasonable has been rather loose. In the midst of all this, it is natural that people in general are concerned about workers’ compensation and how it deals with medical flight services.
Handling of Medical Flight Services by Workers’ Comp
The big concern of most people is naturally whether they have to pay out of pocket in the eventuality that medical flight services are utilized for a work-related injury. Many would simply ask whether there is a possibility of a balance payment being demanded.
Such worries, however, have no basis to them. The amount would be settled by the insurance carrier and if the amount being approved by the carrier is less than what the air ambulance company is claiming, the victim of the accident need not be concerned. It is up to the medical flight services company and the carrier to come to a settlement. In most cases, the air ambulance company gives the insurance carrier a discount.
The Clash of Two Laws and the Way Out
Most states have fee schedules that define the extent of medical flight services cost coverage. However, ADA or Airlines Deregulation Act of 1978 allows air ambulance service providers to charge what they feel is reasonable without any questions being raised. The two laws can be, sometimes, contradictory to each other. However, in spite of all this, it still boils down to the air ambulance company and the insurance provider coming to a common monitory agreement, in case there is a dispute.
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.
Medical flight services are often called when there is an emergency, and time can be a critical factor and mean the difference between survival and death of your loved ones. Here, we discuss a few things you can do to ensure that medical air transportation is not delayed because of you.
Do you have Preferences when it comes to Medical Flight Services?
If your insurance has a tie-up with a particular provider or if you have membership with a particular medical flight services organization, make it known the moment the need for air ambulance arises. Letting it know later can mean unnecessary delays and rescheduling.
Deciding who will Accompany the Patient
Many a times, only one family member is allowed to accompany the patient while availing the medical flight services. Do not let emotions guide this decision. A person who is emotionally stable considering the circumstances is the right one. Just because you love the person most, you might not be the best person to accompany the patient.
The Belongings that Medical Flight Services will Carry
Keep in mind that the belongings can be transported through other means of transport. Medical flight services usually have a huge limitation when it comes to space. So, carry only such belongings that are very important. Don’t waste time deciding on what to carry.
Don’t Save Your Questions about Medical Flight Services to the End
Pick up the phone and call up the medical flight services to clarify any doubts as soon as they arise. Most air ambulance companies will dedicate personnel to interact with you while coordinating the services at the same time.
Keep in Mind that You can Only Provide Moral Support
It is natural for you to feel “responsible,” but when it comes to medical flight services, all you can do is provide moral support to the patient. Everything ranging from the decision to call for air ambulance services to the receiving hospital is decided by qualified professionals. You imposing yourself could result in insurance carriers denying coverage.
The call for medical flight services is usually left to the professionals who evaluate the situation and make a decision. However, the payment for the medical flight services almost always falls on your shoulders, and this can often turn out to be a huge burden.
What if the $10,000 call for medical flight services was totally unwarranted and you would have only incurred a few hundred dollars if you had opted for ground ambulance services? Here, we discuss a few factors that decide whether medical flight services should be pressed into service or not.
Is the Injury Life-Threatening to Warrant Medical Flight Services?
The concern for your loved ones is understandable but unless the patient is in a life-threatening situation and medical flight services can reduce the risk, there is no point calling for one. One must keep in mind that concern and fear are not the reasons to call medical flight services.
Discuss the extent of the injury with the qualified personnel who takes the call and voice your opinion. At the end of it, it is you who will have to make the payment and insurances won’t pay unless the reason for calling medical flight services is valid.
Will Medical Flight Services Actually Save Time?
Air ambulance cannot land just about anywhere. They need adequate landing facilities and if such a facility is too far, it is futile to transport the patient there. You are better off transporting the facility to the appropriate nearest medical center through land transport. Also, there must be a reasonable time difference between the land and air ambulance transport to the destination.
Are the Weather Conditions Congenial for Medical Flight Services?
FAA is already trying its very best to raise the safety standards of medical flight services. Bad weather and poor visibility are risky by themselves. A land ambulance would be a much safer choice in circumstances like these.
There are a lot of technicalities involved with air ambulance services and it is not always the quickest option. So, discuss the mode of transport with the decision-making authority on the scene, although you don’t have the real authority for making the decision when you are dependent on insurance for cost coverage.
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.