The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems and the European Aero-Medical Institute are perhaps the two most well-known organizations that offer accreditation to air ambulance service providers. While the former is primarily for the United States, the latter caters to the European continent. There are several air ambulance companies that certify their quality services through these accreditations. Then, there are those companies that are equally quality oriented but are not accredited. These medical flight companies are usually smaller in size and cannot afford accreditations. This raises the question: are accreditations really needed or is it just another additional cost?
The Benefits of Air Ambulance Service Accreditations are Several
For one, insurance companies are more willing to take an air ambulance service provider in their network coverage when they are accredited by a well known organization. It is an assurance of high quality standards and safety. Many private players who tie up with air ambulance companies too prefer such certifications before tying up for their services. For medical flight service providers, therefore, it makes sense to spend money on such accreditations. Even hospitals and customers veer towards those organizations that have recognized accreditations.
The Constantly Evolving World of Air Ambulance Accreditations
The rules that govern the air ambulance industry constantly evolve. Bodies like Federal Aviation Administration of the United States up the standards that govern air ambulance companies constantly. When this happens, the organizations that offer accreditation automatically are forced to change their standards. For air ambulance service providers, this means upgrading their certifications on a regular basis to stay current. Moreover, these accreditations must follow not just the norms of their own countries since air ambulance services are increasingly going global. An accreditation organization that only caters to a single country risks being ignored as there is a chance of the service providers preferring other more global options.
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.
Just because an aircraft is willing to transport a patient, it does not count as an air ambulance service, in any state of the US. Here, we discuss a few rules that have been laid down by Emergency Health Care Act. We discuss only such parts of the act that pertain to air ambulance service providers in the state of Texas. The rules may vary slightly for other states, but you would get the overall picture here.
Air Ambulance Service – What Constitutes Specialized Emergency Service
The vehicle must be specifically designed to carry the injured or sick by air. Also, all equipments necessary for transportation of the patient must be provided by the air ambulance service.
Any air ambulance service that claims to offer specialized transportation services must be licensed by the Department of State Health Services. This includes the aircraft as well as the staff involved. Even the air ambulance service providers flying into Texas from other states must be licensed by the Department of State Health Services and must be in compliance with the safety norms prescribed by it. Out of state providers must be accredited by Committee on Air Ambulance Medical Services. They would be considered to be in compliance with the Department’s norms if accredited.
The Location of the Air Ambulance Service
All advertisements of the air ambulance service provider must contain its physical address in the state. If the service operates from multiple locations, it is free to advertise them. If an out of state air ambulance service advertises within Texas, it must have at least one base in the state.
There is, however, one exclusion to state licensing. Any air transportation provider can offer voluntary service out of compassion without the expectation of remuneration and bear all the costs of transport. However, the company must be in compliance as a regular air transportation service provider.
In some states, such as: Florida and Texas, air ambulance companies are regulated at a state level. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies all of the aircraft.
CAMTS accreditation is voluntary. However, several states and some governmental agencies have accepted or required CAMTS Accreditation for licensing, contracts or reimbursements.
Accreditation begins with an application form. The form indicates the service’s intentions to complete the process. The service then receives a Program Information Form (PIF). The PIF consists of a demographic section, a list of bases and a self-evaluation of the service, based on the CAMTS Standards. Response to the PIF self-study also requires attachments that include policies, education materials, quality management and safety processes. The PIF and attachments are submitted electronically within a year of applying for accreditation.
Once the PIF is complete and returned to the CAMTS office, it is reviewed by the CAMTS staff for completeness and sent to two Board members who will review contents for completeness and for additional questions that they document for the site surveyors. Site surveyors are then appointed, based on their experience and background related to the type of service (air/ground; fixed/rotor; critical care, ALS/BLS ground, etc.) they will visit.
The site visit is then scheduled at a time agreeable to both the service and site surveyors and at least 1 month prior to a Board of Directors meeting in order to be placed on the agenda for an accreditation decision. Once onsite the surveyors will conduct a series of interviews of personnel, look at training records, quality improvement programs, safety policies, etc. Their comments and observations are documented for the two Board members who present the program anonymously to the full Board. The programs are always presented by a six digit number – proper names and specific locations are not known by the full Board. If a Board member has a conflict of interest – he or she is excused while the program is presented and the Board deliberates.
The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) is an independent non-profit corporation, comprised of representatives from twenty member organizations, each representing some component of air and ground medical transport. Representatives to the CAMTS Board of Directors bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge in their field of expertise. The Board of Directors develops and approves standards for all levels of medical transport – both air and ground. As standards are revised, they are shared with the member organizations and medical transport professionals at large for their comments and suggestions.
Accreditation by CAMTS is granted to those programs that voluntarily apply and demonstrate substantial compliance with the CAMTS Accreditation Standards. This is done through submission of documentation as well as a site survey performed by trained CAMTS surveyors, who have a depth of medical transport knowledge and experience.
There is no single “governing body” over medEvac services. Each service is independent, or could be part of a group of similar programs. There are however, several agencies that may have licensing or over sight for medEvac services. For the aviation components, medEvac services must adhere to rules and regulations established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They are also subject to periodic inspections by the FAA.
Minimal standards for reimbursement and/or licensing could also be established by third party payers (Medicare, Medicaid, managed care organizations) or by local legislation (state, county or city laws). Most states have minimum licensing requirements for medEvac personnel and the service.
In addition, medEvac services may also follow national or regional standards. For those services that are hospital based, if the hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHCO) or other such organizations, such as the American College of Surgeons for trauma verification, the medEvac service must also meet those minimum standards.
An ambulance driver must meet the following requirements:
- Is at least 18 years of age;
- certifies under oath that he or she is not addicted to alcohol or any controlled substance, and is free from any physical or mental defect or disease that might impair their ability to drive an ambulance;
- Upon initial designation as a driver, has not within the past 3 years, been convicted of reckless driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance and has not had a driver’s license suspended under the point system provided for in Chapter 322, Florida Statutes;
- successfully completed a 16 hour course of instruction on driving an authorized emergency vehicle, which includes, at a minimum, classroom and behind the wheel training. Section 64J-1.013, Florida Administrative Code for details on the 16 hour course content;
- possess a valid American Red Cross or National Safety Council first aid course or its equivalent; and
- possess a valid American Red Cross or American Heart Association cardiopulmonary resuscitation card.
Reference Section 401.281, Florida Statutes and Chapter 64J-1.013, Florida Administrative Code.
Seek an established company that owns and operates it own equipment and has a full-time dedicated staff. The company should be certified as an air ambulance service by the FAA and should have all related licenses and insurance