Tag Archives: medical flights

An App to Summon Medical Flights

In the prevailing scenario, patients and emergency personnel rely heavily on phone calls to summon medical flights. The methodology is highly time-consuming and necessitates a lot of information to set up an air ambulance and then dispatch it. This is not an ideal situation when the patient needs urgent care, especially when technological advancements are capable of making things much easier. We use mobile applications every day to order taxi services. What if we could replicate the model to order medical flights too? Would it not be an ideal replacement for the current time-consuming methodology? Let’s take a look at the different aspects.

Integrating Medical Flights – More Power to Choose

Imagine a mobile application that allows you to choose from a list of air ambulance service providers. Out-of-network services will cease to be a problem and insurance companies will be more likely to approve the claims that a consequence of ordering medical flights. From patients to physicians, everyone would have instant access to multiple service providers. The app can also feature details about air ambulance affiliations with various insurance networks. The whole exercise would be much more efficient than it currently is.

Integrating Medical Flights with Electronic Health Systems

Patient information is today stored in highly secure electronic health systems. Hospitals and medical service providers are mandated by the government to store patient information in these systems. What this means is that all patient information such as medical history, allergy, family history, etc., is readily available during emergencies. Imagine connecting this data to the patient through the app. As soon as medical flights are called for, a notification can directly go to the receiving physician, along with all the medical details. If this becomes a reality, the receiving facility would be much better prepared for the patients and will be able to offer timely care, resulting in faster recovery.

Prepping Medical Flights for Success

Amid thundering engines and pounding heartbeats, crews of medical flights set out on life-saving missions every day. The mission starts even before the takeoff. The planning begins with choosing the right crew, the right aircraft, ground coordination, specialists – the list goes on. On long-haul flights, it is also about accommodating the crew members of the medical flights once they land in far off places. Accounting for all the eventualities is what makes a mission successful.

Medical Flights beyond Borders

It takes anywhere between 12 hours to a day to get appropriate permissions for medical flights to cross borders. Failing to achieve this, can result in unnecessary delays and administrative hurdles. When the patient is critical, such a waste of time is can prove to be the difference between life and death. The degree of difficulty in obtaining these permits varies from one country to another. It can cost anywhere between USD 50 and USD 400.

Security of Medical Flights

All said and done, there are always those rare instances where air ambulances have to take off, and the ground staff then has to quickly work towards obtaining the permits. Security is a prime concern in such instances, especially if the travel destination is politically volatile. Experienced medical flight service providers are well aware of such issues and are always prepared for them. They know the process and the people in the right places to make it happen.

Planning the Duration

Typically, air ambulances can be prepared to take off within an hour but these are always short-haul. For longer distances, it can take twice this time. Fuel, medical supplies, landing permits, etc. are part of the preparation.

Medical flights are usually called for emergencies. It takes an experienced crew to smoothly handle the unexpected. This includes the pilot and also coordinators during long flights.

Medical Flights – The Market-Driving Factors

It is believed that the medical flights will be in great demand for most part of the next two decades and will grow at a rate of 9.3%. In the past year, the industry grew to US$ 4,524.7 million. Those are some robust numbers and not the kind we commonly see in the prevailing economy. What are the driving factors behind these trends? It is certainly not the affordability of the people as evident by the growing concerns surrounding the balance bills that never fail to make the headlines. It is the medical need that is driving the air ambulance industry. Here are some sharp insights.

Medical Flights and Diabetes

Perhaps the most common lifestyle disease that prevails today is diabetes. While there is nothing that cries emergency about diabetes, it is a cause for more serious ailments. People with diabetes are known to eventually develop serious heart and kidney conditions, which give rise to life-threatening emergencies. This is where medical flights come into picture. With the US fighting obesity and diabetes (as a consequence), the market is set on an upswing. In fact, currently, there are about 463 million diabetics in the country, and it is projected to reach 700 million in the next 25 years.

Medical Flights and Drug-Related Emergencies

The illicit drug menace has bothered the country for long. Today, it is believed drugs are among the biggest killers when it comes to people under the age of 50. A lot of times, these give rise to serious and unexpected medical emergencies ranging from overdose to motor vehicle accidents. Medical flights are the only recourse in most cases.

Medical Flights and Rural Hospitals

It is a known fact that rural hospitals have been closing down at a rapid rate in the country, and the trend has been up since a decade now. Medical flights are the only way out for the residents of such areas.

In a way, the market for medical flights is a reflection of how healthy the society is.

Making Medical Flights Safer – Drone Rules

In light of the recent developments where medical flights around the world were disrupted due to illegally flying drones, there are a few questions that beg to be asked: “Is flying drones legal in the United States?”, “If so, what are the rules and legislations that govern flying of drones?”. Once you are aware of facts such as these, it helps flying them within the legal bounds making it easier for medical flights to ply. It must be noted in this context that flying drones is perfectly legal in the United States, subject to certain restrictions, so much so that even foreigners can bring them into the country and fly them. The Federal Aviation Authority as well as National Aviation Authority allow them.

Rules that Govern Drones in the United States

Rules for flying drones recreationally:

  • The reason for flying must only be recreational and there must be no business angle to it.
  • Hobbyists must visit https://faadronezone.faa.gov/#/ and register the drone with Federal Aviation Authority
  • The drones must never escape your line of vision as you fly them
  • Only those drones which are under 55 lbs are permitted
  • One must never be close to any aircraft
  • Only flying in Class G airspace is allowed
  • It is strictly prohibited to fly close to emergency response vehicles such as medical flights

Rules for flying drones commercially:

  • The operator must hold a FAA-issued Remote Pilot Certification
  • The drones must be registered with FAA just like recreational ones
  • It must weight under 55 lbs
  • The flight must not cross the speed of 100 miles per hour
  • The drone must always remain below 400 feet so that they do not disturb medical flights and other aircrafts
  • Any manned aerial vehicle must be given the right to way
  • Flying directly over people is prohibited
  • Flying a drone from a vehicle is only allowed in thinly populated regions

If these simple rules are taken care of, drone flying becomes a safe activity.

Preparing for Medical Flights

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.

A Guide to Air Blocks on Medical Flights

The study of aviation physiology is quite extensive. On diving deep into this subject, it becomes apparent that air blocks are major factors that bring about physiological changes in relation to altitude. To say that principles of aviation physiology hold good for medical flights too is stating the obvious. In this guide, we highlight some of the very common air blocks. These must be considered every time a person opts for a flight, pressurize or unpressurized.

Ear Blocks on Medical Flights

The symptoms primarily start as a feeling of fullness; however, the symptom may take a slightly painful turn in higher altitudes and ultimately lead to vertigo. The solutions though are pretty simple:  yawning, swallowing and Valsalva are quite effective.

Sinus Blocks on Medical Flights

There can be two types of sinus blocks. The first type is maxillary sinus block. This is characterized by sharp pain beneath the cheekbones as well as upper dentition. The second type is frontal and is characterized by severe pain under the eyebrow as well as eye corners. The best remedy for this is Valsalva maneuver.

Gastrointestinal Tract Blocks on Medical Flights

Our digestive system can hold a lot of trapped gas. When a person travels on a high-altitude medical flight, this collection of gas can lead to physiological changes in the gastrointestinal tract causing discomfort and sometimes, slight pain. Belching and flatus can provide instant relief.

Tooth Blocks on Medical Flights

This is not the most common air block on medical flights; however, these can be quite painful and irritating. Sometimes, the natural gaps within teeth and gaps that occur due to dental procedures can retain air and act like bubbles. These air blocks can cause pain at high altitude. There is no immediate remedy for this condition. It is advised that the patient visit a dentist upon landing.

It must be noted that any discomfort that does not go away even after the above-suggested techniques must be dealt with all seriousness. In extreme cases, descent or landing may be warranted.

Guide to Tackling Hypoxia on Medical Flights at High Altitudes

Hypoxia is almost a certainty at high altitudes unless it is cared for. However, it does not usually occur as medical flights usually have pressurised cabins. This does not mean that we do not pay any heed to this potentially life-threatening condition, which is a real possibility on medical flights, when the altitudes are in excess of 10 thousand feet above the sea level.

The word hypoxia, when literally translated means lack of oxygen. A decrease in supply of oxygen to human body can bring about myriad symptoms and recognizing these, especially when in medical flights, is extremely important, as patients are usually already in a weak health position in air ambulances.

The Signs of Hypoxia on Medical Flights

Paramedics and nurses onboard medical flights must look for signs such as impaired judgement, lethargy, poor physical coordination, bluing of the skin (also known as cyanosis) and rapid breathing. The intensity of each of these signs may vary but these are the most visible signs that the patient is experiencing hypoxia.

The Symptoms of Hypoxia on Medical Flights

Surprisingly, euphoria or extreme happiness can be a symptom of hypoxia. Other symptoms can be a sensation of tingling, impaired visual capacity, cold or hot flashes, dizziness, headache, nausea, fatigue and air hunger. Not all symptoms might be present in one single individual but at least some of these might be present when the patients are hypoxic in medical flights.

The Effects of Hypoxia on Human Beings

It must be noted that about 20% of all oxygen that we take in is used by our brain. So, one of the first organs that is affected by hypoxia is the brain. If the brain is deprived of oxygen, it can lead to severe and permanent brain damage leaving the person with impaired functions for life. In extreme cases, it may even cause death. However, treating hypoxia, fortunately, is easy. All that patients aboard medical flights need is 100% oxygen and the symptoms vanish within a matter of seconds.

Understanding the Term ‘Medical Necessity’ in the Context of Medical Flights

One of the most basic criteria for insurances approving and covering costs of medical flights is establishing that there was actually a medical necessity for availing the service. However, understanding what constitutes a ‘medical necessity’ is important. Of course, we have discussed, in our earlier guides, that the decision to summon air ambulances can only be taken by the treating medical professionals in the hospital or at the site of accidents. Let’s dive into this topic a little deep here.

Medical Flights and their Advantage Over Ground Ambulances

It must be established or deemed important to leverage the advantage that medical flights have over ground ambulances. The instability that comes with transporting a patient via ground ambulance and the need for rapid medical transportation could be the two reasons to avail medical flight services. Further, the condition of the patient should be such that he or she could suffer serious medical consequences or even face death if an air ambulance is not used.

Accessibility of the Destination

An air ambulance can become a ‘medical necessity’ if the destination is located in a region that is remote or completely inaccessible to other forms of transportation. The ground approach to the destination could be such that it poses a serious threat to the patient owing to the terrain.

Time Taken to Reach the Nearest Treating Facility

There are times when a delay as small as 30 minutes to an hour can mean the difference between life and death. The ground ambulances may be available in such scenarios but the time that they take to reach the treating facility could be a deterrent and the advantage of quick transportation that comes with medical flights could be the advantage. Of course, the severity of the illness or the disease condition would be the primary factor behind this decision.

Medical Flight Jets and Equipment: An Overview

Medical flights have resulted in hundreds of lives being saved every year. This is because an air ambulance can do many things that a ground ambulance may find difficult – such as reaching remote areas within short periods of time. The speed and efficiency of an aircraft can make a huge difference, especially in critical situations where a few minutes’ delay can be fatal. These services are provided by well-built aircrafts that are equipped with the latest medical facilities.

Swift Medical Service with Jets

Services that provide a combination of air transportation and medical care make use of different types of aircrafts – from helicopters and smaller airplanes to the swiftest jets. The Learjet is among the best type of aircraft used for providing medical transport. Some of the popularly used models in a medical transport fleet are Gulfstream, Falcon, and King Air. With various models having different transport capacities, the larger ones are ideal for carrying a number of attendants along with the patient and medical crew.

One of the best models is the Learjet 35A, which can fly nonstop over a 2000-mile range. With an average speed of 500mph, the 35A can fly over the 2000 miles in just 4.5 hours. This makes the model ideal for companies providing medical transport service via air.

High-end Equipments for Medical Flights

An aircraft providing medical transport service will be fitted and equipped with the latest devices for providing comprehensive medical care on board. The standard equipment list for medical flights generally include FAA-approved stretchers, portable suction units, blood pressure monitors, oxygen, incubation equipment, cardiac monitors, ventilation systems, and defibrillators. In cases where the patient may require a specialized equipment or device, the medical team can make a request to the flight coordinator.

Using these highly-equipped medical aircrafts, air ambulance operators are able to provide fast and comprehensive medical care and transport service to patients.

Aircraft flying high in the city

Medical Flights and RVSM

RVSM is an abbreviation that stands for Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum. RVSM-approved medical flights must be fitted with certain gadgets such as autopilot and certified altimeter. These medical flights are allowed to fly 29,000 feet above the sea level.

RVSM allows aircrafts to fly maintaining reduced vertical distance between each other; thus, paving way for more medical flights to share airspace simultaneously and safely. While this may seem quite technical for a layman, there are other distinct advantages of flying above 29,000 feet. It brings speed, comfort and safety. Let’s discuss the importance of RVSM, especially with long-distance medical flights.

Safety of Medical Flights and RVSM

Safety is always the primary concern when you choose an air ambulance. Medical flights coursing at lower altitudes are more susceptible to turbulence. Such turbulences can cause unnecessary anxiety in the patient which is not advisable when the condition of the patient is critical or the patient is already anxious about his or her health.

Speed of Medical Flights and RVSM

Time is always of essence when choosing an air ambulance. Medical flights flying at higher altitudes fly quicker and burn lesser fuel. This means that the air ambulance does not have to stop frequently for fueling. Circling the airport, landing, fueling and resuming flight can be quite time consuming and RVSM approved medical flights avoid/ reduce such hassles greatly.

Comfort of Medical Flights and RVSM

The reduced chances of turbulence, when flying at higher altitudes, make travel comfortable for the patient. The difference in comfort level is not too great but for a patient who has a fragile health condition, the small difference can mean a lot. There is also the peace of mind that comes along when you know that the aircraft carrying you will take lesser time.

Cost is always a consideration when choosing medical flights. The fact that a RVSM approved aircraft burns less fuel could translate into lesser costs for you.