Every now and then, we attempt to keep you abreast of the latest happenings in the air ambulance industry. This week witnessed some intriguing developments. We take a look at them in some detail.
Questions being Raised about Efficacy of No Surprise Bill Act
In the United States, air ambulance industry observers are looking at the No Surprise Bill Act with some skepticism recently. The reason behind this is the existence of the Airline Deregulation Act. Experts believe that the air ambulance organizations that are backed by private equity are most likely to look for loopholes by leveraging the Airline Deregulation Act. The new Act that bans surprise billing practices will come into effect in the year 2022.
Air Ambulance and Airplane Come Dangerously Close to Each Other
An air ambulance chopper belonging to North Whales and an airplane reportedly came dangerously close to each other recently. It is believed that the distance between the two was just about 50 feet. The paramedic seated in the air ambulance spotted the airplane first. He had immediately informed the pilot about it averting a life-snuffing situation.
The air ambulance had no prior information that an airplane was in the skies. It was a case of both aerial vehicles not knowing that the other was present. A situation like this is not the first. A similar situation involving an air ambulance and Cessna 150 had occurred in the October of last year. The incident brings to light the fact that air ambulance services must adopt mid-air collision warning systems and not rely merely on human alertness.
Unscrupulous Elements Disrupt Air Ambulance Services
Although the happening surrounding the incident are not yet clear, it was recently reported that a few youths had abused an air ambulance pilot in Derbyshire. The miscreants had not relented at that, they had gone further and tried to grab the blades of the air ambulance chopper in an attempt to damage it. Police were quick to respond and the situation had swiftly come under control.
The United States has one of the largest air ambulance industries in the entire world. This is in spite of the fact that it is not the most densely populated country in the world. It is, therefore, natural that one wonders why this is so. There are several reasons behind it. One of the prime reasons is the potential for revenue. However, there is another important aspect to it, which is not often considered. The United States is a country that has a huge rural population. It is without quick access to appropriate medical facilities and air ambulance services are a necessity.
Air Ambulance Services Close the Distance Gap
Although the United States is not a densely populated country, it is one of the largest when it comes to the landmass. This means that the population in the country is spread thinly across a large geographical area. Moreover, the cities are very thickly populated, which means the population in the rural areas is thinly distributed. This fact acts as a disincentive for any major medical corporation to have a facility in the areas as the number of potential revenue-generating subjects is very not that great.
Air Ambulance Industry is a Profitable One
Closing the gap created by the lack of medical facilities in the rural areas is the air ambulance industry. Most of the time, the only way a patient can get quick access to advanced medical care is through air ambulance services. This fact increases the customer base of the industry. With most of these organizations being funded by private equity, obviously, a lot of investment has gone into the sector. The result has been a huge increase in the number of air ambulance services that rule the country’s skies. With the surprise billing practices slated to come to a close soon, the general public will soon reap the true benefits of having several air ambulance companies at their disposal.
Medical flight membership programs have always been around, although not many have been very popular. Now, with the regulations surrounding surprise medical bills, medical flight service providers are thinking of new ways to stay afloat. Will this mean that membership programs will be redesigned by most of them? It is a question that has remained unanswered, but something that the industry must look at closely.
The disconnect between medical flight service providers has been that they do not honor each other’s memberships. This leaves the members with limited options, wherein they are confined to availing services only from a few medical flight services. In emergencies, they may end up hiring any air ambulance service.
Will the Medical Flight Service Providers Come Together?
This is a big question that has remained unanswered so far. However, the medical flight industry has much to gain if this becomes a reality. Imagine how convenient it would be if one membership would cover all the medical flight services across the country and even across borders. Members simply would not have to worry about the cost. All they would need to do is pay an annual membership fee and the whole family would be covered.
Will Memberships Continue to Remain Popular?
It is likely that medical flight membership programs will gain in popularity. This will be the case even if there is an end to surprise billing. The reason is this: non-emergency medical flight services may still demand out-of-pocket payments. Having a membership can negate this issue. It is for this reason that medical flight memberships will continue to retain their utility. Plus, with the pandemic still not under control, air ambulances can come in handy, especially if it involves flying huge distances for appropriate treatment. The one factor that will continue to retain focus is the acceptability of memberships across service providers.
Customization has been a need of the air ambulance industry for a long time now. The customizations, however, have been mainly aimed at internal modifications to make maximum utilization of space. Another set of redesigns have come in the form of changes to the medical equipment with the objective of making them lighter and compact. As a result, the air ambulance vehicles that we see today are equipped with medical gadgets that can put regular intensive care units to shame. However, the industry is demanding even more, and rightly so. Offering premium services is what the air ambulance industry has strived for.
Air Ambulance Design Basics Need Change
The aircraft industry is highly evolved today and is looking to implement innovations. It is now looking at the air ambulance industry to spread its market reach further. It is a win-win situation for both industries.
For the aircraft manufacturing industry, it is a chance to widen its market as the traditional markets have seen a sharp slump in recent times. The COVID-19 situation has only worsened the existing situation. On the other hand, the air ambulance industry has had its own design demands.
What does the Air Ambulance Industry Need?
Efficiency when it comes to space is perhaps the biggest demand of the air ambulance industry. To make a true difference, medical flight designs need a fundamental change in design. The aircraft need to be lighter, yet more space-efficient.
Another requirement is maneuverability. The design needs to be such that an air ambulance must be able to land and take off amid heavy traffic. The ability to reach tough terrains is another requirement.
When achieving all this, the aircraft needs to be silent enough so that the patients are offered a comfortable flight. It is heartening to see that innovations in this space today are moving in the right direction.
Although the congressional bill that seeks to ban surprise billing is not limited to the medical flight industry, much has been made out about it. The bill will span the entire medical industry including doctors and medical service providers. Since the bill is Federal, it will apply to the medical flight industry too. However, this long-drawn bill was seen as a battleground with insurance providers on one side and the rest of the medical fraternity on the other. Who won the battle? This was the question that most people were asking at the end of it all.
It was a Balanced Bill with No Defeats
The main source of contention was the fixing of prices for various medical services. The insurance industry was bent on fixing it according to their prevailing rates, which, frankly, were outdated. On the other hand, the medical fraternity, including the air ambulance industry, wanted the government to consider its price list. However, it was widely believed that the list consisted of highly inflated prices. Realistically, it was never expected to be accepted even by those who were advocating it. The congressional bill has skilfully navigated between the industries to ensure that all involved parties get a fair deal.
Medical Flight Services Get the Option for Arbitration
The dispute about medical flight bills has always been between the insurance and the air ambulance industry. However, common citizens have borne the brunt of it. Now, however, the bill will introduce a mechanism for arbitration between the two parties so that they can sort it between themselves and leave the patients out of it. This will ensure that no patient gets a surprise medical flight bill even if the provider is out of network. The bill goes on to suggest protection for those without insurance too, in case of health emergencies. The way forward, it seems, is coming to a consensus for both industries.
Medical air transport is going to play a crucial role in the days to come as we had predicted earlier. For instance, the doctors in certain rural parts of the United States are predicting a surge in patient intake due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An unsustainable demand for quality medical care is on the horizon. The country today is witnessing a record-breaking increase in infections, and they are not limited to the urban parts of the country. Medical air transport is slated to be of extreme importance to offer patients the care they truly deserve. The industry too seems prepared for this second surge of infections.
Medical Air Transport Industry is Prepared
We know much more about the COVID-19 infection today. Complications that require ventilator support and even lung transplant in some instances have been factored in. The medical air transport vehicles today are equipped to handle such complications. More importantly, medical experts have now gained enough knowledge that they know patients might even need to be sedated throughout the journey, and they are ready for eventualities like these. Such need arises due to the agony that the infection causes in some serious cases.
The Number of Emergency Calls Has Gone Up
During the first wave of infections, people were not very keen on venturing out. However, due to the persistence of the pandemic, it is now economically impossible for people to stay away from their jobs. This has led to an increased number of people getting out of their homes and consequently, there is an increase in road accidents, etc, which demand the services of the medical air transport industry. The fact coupled with the increased number of infections and the shortage of appropriate medical facilities in rural communities has led to an unprecedented demand for air ambulances. The only solace in this scenario is the preparedness of the medical air transport industry, which is very high.
The air ambulance industry has been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation pods, donning personal protective equipment, and sanitization procedures are the new norm for the industry. Although it has been close to three quarters since the onset of the pandemic, the world is still learning about it and the protocols and standards of care are still evolving. Along with it, the air ambulance industry is evolving. The rural communities, which are heavily reliant on medical flights, will be even more dependent on it in the post-COVID-19 era. Let’s take a look at what will change in the days and years to come.
Rural Communities will Continue to Rely on the Air Ambulance Industry
Scores of people around the country have been infected so far. The rural population of the United States does not have many options when it comes to quality healthcare. This fact might necessitate the flying of medical staff or the patients from one location to another for treatment purposes. The air ambulance industry will play a big role in instances like these, especially when there is an emergency. As more and more long-term effects of the infection come to light, treatment modalities will change.
People will Stop Delaying Treatment Plans
The air ambulance industry has witnessed a sharp decline in the number of customers in recent times. The restriction of movement has resulted in a huge reduction in road and adventure related accidents. Moreover, even patients with health concerns have chosen to not seek treatment for the fear of contracting the infection in the hospital. Instances like these will change once the country opens up completely and people feel confident about venturing out without fear. The pharmaceutical industry too is very close to developing a vaccine. Once the population is vaccinated and insulated against the infection, the air ambulance industry will come back to its pre-COVID-19 levels.
Medical flights that are considered safe to carry patients infected by COVID-19 are seeing a huge bump in demand at the current time. The surge in demand started in about March and continues to hold strong. The COVID-19 infection numbers have seen a temporary remission but have been on a rise recently. Medical flights have been a great source for repatriation during these troubled times. The fact that the world is now slowly opening up despite the high number of infections is adding fuel to the existing demand.
Medical Flights Find it Easier to Cross Borders Now
Earlier when the COVID-19 had just hit the world, nations across the globe had closed their borders. This had posed a logistical challenge as the process to obtain special permission to enter some nations can be quite long-drawn and tedious. However, at the current time, most countries are opening their borders with some safety precautions being put in place. The world today realizes the fact that hiding from the virus is no solution, rather it is the will to fight it through adequate precautions that matter. This attitude has benefited the medical flights that conduct repatriations.
Many People are Still Stuck in Foreign Countries
COVID-ready medical flights are seeing that most of their flights are beyond their home countries. It is natural that in today’s highly connected world, many people live abroad and do so for years. For someone who has been outside for years together, it isn’t easy to leave everything and head back home. However, if one contracts the infection – especially if it is severe – the preference usually is to seek treatment close to the loved ones. Medical flights are the only recourse in situations like these. With the resurgence of infections in most European countries and part of the United States, the demand for medical flights is slated to go up further.
The Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Medical Air Services recently revealed that they are witnessing a whopping 40% increase in demand for their services. On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a sharp fall in the finances.
As the nations around the world have eased lockdowns, more and more people are out on the streets. This has increased the chances of injuries related to accidents and crime. The medical air services are seeing a proportionate increase in demand due to these factors.
In regions where the lockdowns have not been eased, the rise in domestic violence and anxiety-related ailments are on a sharp rise. However, the medical flight companies are in a bind.
Health Risk Faced by Medical Air Services Crews
The crews of medical air services are highly exposed to the risk of contracting deadly Coronavirus. When you look at the world scenario, there have been several reports of frontline workers being infected. This puts added pressure on the remaining staff. Added to this problem is the inability to act fast due to the stringent disinfection process being put in place for the safety of the crew as well as the patients.
Air Ambulance Organizations Dependent on Charities are Struggling to Raise Money
It is a known fact that people around the world are losing jobs and consequently their income. In a situation like this, raising money for causes like that of medical air services is an uphill task. For countries like the United Kingdom where air ambulance organizations depend heavily on charity, this is a big blow. Besides, it is tough for individuals to initiate fund-raising activities. All these factors have rendered the industry a heavy blow. Countries like the United States where air ambulance companies are already reeling under losses, shutting down seems like a real threat.
The lockdowns around the world are easing, down and people are slowly gaining the confidence back to venture out and involve in matters that are pressing for a society to function normally. One of such activities is medical flight charity. Countries like the United Kingdom depend heavily on public contributions to keep the air ambulance services running. Here are a few developments that stand evidence to the fact that they are inching towards normalcy.
A Kid from Reading Raising Money for Medical Flight Services
Alfie, an 8-year-old boy, has made news for his efforts to raise money for Children’s Air Ambulance. This enterprising child organized a sponsored run and has been selling bird feeders to raise money. It is believed that he has already raised a few hundred pounds through his relentless efforts. Alfie is a part of #TheCrew, a children’s club, involved in raising money for the worthy cause.
Medics in Ireland take up Cycling Challenge to Raise Money
A team of 11, comprising of an engineer, six doctors, and 4 paramedics is all set to take up a cycling challenge that will cover 110 miles. The effort has come in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, which stalled several fund-raising efforts. The endurance challenge is set to take place between the 2nd and 3rd of October. The expectation is that it will raise the much-needed funds to keep the medical flight services going. They are doing this for the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance.
Midlands Air Ambulance Charity goes Virtual
This charity has revealed that their pre-hospital services have shot up by 35% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization has, therefore, decided to give the community that it serves an insight into what typically goes on. It will, of course, be a fund-raising initiative too. The organization has taken the virtual route to ensure the safety of the community amid the pandemic.