There have been a lot of developments when it comes to the air ambulance industry in recent times. The most predominant of these changes has been the attempt by the Federal Government of the United States to bring down the surprise billing practices. While the attempt is sure to help the patients, enabling them to use air ambulance services without the worry of payments, there are several issues that will bother the industry in the coming days. With insurance coverage being felt inadequate, the margins of the industry are going to dwindle down drastically. How can the industry adapt? This is the question we try to answer.
Air Ambulance Companies Need the Right Perspective
Most of the air ambulance services in the United States are funded by private equity and the organizations are obviously for-profit. A drastic dip in revenues can mean that a lot of the players will start looking at an exit strategy. However, this can impact the nation adversely as it directly affects the coverage, especially for rural America where healthcare infrastructure is less than adequate. This inadequacy necessitates air ambulance services during emergencies. If air ambulance companies shut down, it could be a fatal problem for this population.
The Need to Work Cohesively by Industry Players
It is time that the major players in the air ambulance industry look at cutting down the costs. One effective way of achieving this is a collaboration between companies. This will necessitate fewer resources as they can be shared. Consequently, the cost burden will be significantly reduced. It is also a time to look at acquiring smaller players who were anyway reeling under competitive pressure. Also, lesser competition means that each player will have a greater piece of the market pie. Profits will, therefore, remain optimum as the economy of scale will kick in.
Countries like the United Kingdom and India are already reeling under the second wave of COVID-19 infections. Nations like Australia and New Zealand are making it tough for people to enter their countries, protecting themselves against a potential spike in virus cases. Whatever said and done, it seems increasingly inevitable that the world, including the United States, will see the second wave of the pandemic. Instead of denying this fact, prudence lies in preparing for it. Air ambulance services are again going to be a big part of tackling this problem.
The Air Ambulance Industry is Better Prepared
The world knows a lot about protecting itself against the Coronavirus today. From the perspective of air ambulance services, the industry as a whole has adopted a sanitization protocol to protect the frontline workers like paramedics and pilots, apart from the patients. In the days to come, the heartlands of the United States are again going to need air ambulance services to get adequate treatment. In this context, it must be noted that the infection hits the older generation the hardest. Much of the rural population in the United States falls under this category.
Children May Be More Vulnerable in the Next Wave
There are at least three new variants of the virus present in the world today. Sadly, it has been witnessed that, in rare cases, even the vaccinated individuals are contracting the virus. Moreover, people do not fear the virus today as much as they did earlier. This has resulted in lax self-sanitization measures. All this could snowball into a huge spike and the air ambulance industry needs to be prepared in case the caseload is very high, especially in the rural United States where the number of hospital beds is still considered inadequate to handle a huge spike in numbers.
The air ambulance industry saw quite a few developments in the recent past. From making the services affordable to ushering in new technology, the space was rife with exciting developments. We take a look at a few of the advances that caught our attention. Read on, to keep up with the latest happenings in the air ambulance industry.
Cost-Effectiveness Becomes the New Mantra of the Air Ambulance Industry
More and more states are allowing air ambulance memberships now. With the pressure on the air ambulance industry to contain costs and the new curbs on surprise billing around the corner, many service providers are now offering membership programs at a very reasonable price. It will be no surprise if the service providers soon start offering privileged services through membership programs to stay competitive and gain customer loyalty.
Norwegian Air Ambulance Acquires New Technology
Technology has been at the forefront of the air ambulance industry. Keeping with the trend, Norway’s national air ambulance service has acquired IV fluid and blood warming devices. The new facility will increase the chances of patient survival and recovery. The device will allow the fluids to be warmed to body temperature before infusion. In essence, people will now be able to get better care en route to hospitals. The national air ambulance of Norway will have this equipment fitted to all its choppers and fixed-wing aircraft.
Military and Air Ambulance Industry May Work Together to Fight COVID-19
Militaries across the globe have a sizeable lineup of helicopters. The air ambulance industry is well equipped to turn them into make-shift medical flights with no structural modifications. An example of this was seen recently in Austria where a military chopper was fitted with a medical kit and a COVID-19 patient was transported using its services. Governments around the world can take a leaf from this effort to fight the pandemic more effectively.
The citizens of the United Kingdom are the forerunners when it comes to raising funds for charitable causes that involve air ambulance services. Rightly so, because the country’s air ambulance services are mostly charity-based and do not get full funding from corporate houses or the government. They mainly depend on the community that they serve to keep them flying. However, the pandemic has made it rather tough to raise funds through public events. Thankfully, people have been sensitive to this issue and have been trying their best to support their local air ambulance services.
A Chocolate Air Ambulance
Shaped like a helicopter, a whopping 220 lb chocolate that stands at about 7 feet high and 9 feet long is the latest charity effort in the United Kingdom that is making waves. Reinforced with a customized steel frame, it is not just a charity effort but a crowd-puller. Created entirely out of public donations, the hope is that people will not only pay to see this wonder but also pay to eat a small chunk of it. The money raised like this would go to the air ambulance charity. The feat has been made possible by Jan Hansen who is from Folkingham, Lincolnshire.
The Reason Behind Creating the Edible Chopper
The astounding chocolate chopper was the fund-raising choice to create awe among people and grab their attention. Mr. Hansen did reveal that he had his doubts midway as he was creating this edible wonder. However, the local charity-based air ambulance services that he often sees flying high were the inspiration for him to keep going. The chocolate chopper is currently on display right behind Mr. Hansen’s shop. He also revealed that he was well aware of the struggles being faced by the local air ambulance charities due to the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to lend a helping hand.
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.
Although the air ambulance industry only forms a small part of the aviation industry, it is still a part of it. The aviation industry on the whole contributes about 2% of all human-generated carbon dioxide – in other words, about 915 million tonnes of it. There have been several attempts to contain this pollution. For instance, the air ambulance industry has been increasingly looking at electric-powered aircraft. Besides, drones are being tested to carry out tasks that an air ambulance normally undertakes. However, the success has been limited and the impact minimal as of now.
Air Ambulance Industry and Green Fuel
Speaking of green fuel, hydrogen is one thing that comes to mind. Considered the cleanest form of fuel, hydrogen can definitely transform the scene for the air ambulance industry. However, the production of hydrogen itself is not green and it can produce as much CO2 as fossil fuels. The net green advantage, therefore, is zero. That said, not all hope is lost. There is also carbon-neutral hydrogen, but disappointingly, it makes for only about 1% of the global production. This clean hydrogen is produced by electrolyzing water. The reason that it is not currently popular is its cost. The air ambulance industry might not be able to adopt it due to this fact.
What About Liquefied Natural Gas?
Liquefied natural gas or LNG is something that the air ambulance industry can look at if there is a change in the fuel infrastructure. It will take a holistic infrastructural change in the aviation industry for air ambulance services to adopt it. However, if it is achieved, the carbon footprint can be brought down to a huge extent. LNG is known to emit up to 30% less CO2. Besides, it can bring down the nitrous oxide emissions by up to 80%. It is also much lighter than conventional aviation fuel.
It can be safely said that its options galore today. All it takes is a bit of will to adopt.
The qualifying standards for being a medical flight pilot are quite high and require thousands of hours of flying experience. Besides, there are license requirements, night flying experience, and so on. The list is quite extensive. Most medical flight companies have their own hiring standards. If you are wondering why that is so, here is the answer. Medical flight pilots often have to work in extreme conditions and experience can come in handy in such situations. For instance, landing a helicopter in the middle of a busy highway, navigating between power lines and other obstructions can be quite nerve-racking. Only experience can come to the rescue in such scenarios.
Single-Pilot Medical Flight
The most common of the configurations among medical flight aircraft are single-pilot. The crew usually consists of a nurse and a paramedic along with the pilot. This necessitates that the pilot is a good team player. Often, he or she may need inputs from the crew members when it comes to visibility, especially during low light to avoid cables and other obstructions. The medical flight pilot must be able to verbalize the need for input clearly keeping in mind that advice is being sought from unqualified and non-technical personnel.
Working in Shifts
Medical flight services are usually open for service all hours of the day throughout the year. This means that the pilot will have to work in shifts. Besides, some medical flight service providers expect the pilots to work in staggered shifts where the first few hours could be in the morning and the rest, later in the day. There are also instances where medical flight pilots are expected to work seven days straight, 12 hours each and then take off the entire next week.
It goes without saying that the work-life of a medical flight pilot is quite exciting but it does come with a lot of responsibilities.
There was a lot happening in the air ambulance industry in the past few days. From near-fatal accidents to celebrations, there was news that kept people on their toes. Here is a quick recap of some of the most noteworthy occurrences that took place recently.
Bowen Island Air Ambulance Crash
Last Friday was witness to some grueling moments as an air ambulance crashed in Bowel Island. The helicopter had crashed into the trees. Search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the site after receiving the information. A ground ambulance was also called to the spot. Details of the crash are just coming in, and it is not yet clear where the air ambulance was headed. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the crash. The crew consisted of two pilots, and the air ambulance was not carrying any patient at the time.
Laser Lights Haunt Air Ambulance Services Again
The laser flashing incident occurred on February 28th. The time was around 9:30 in the night. The air ambulance was in the Roath Recreation Ground in the United Kingdom. The mission had to be aborted due to this attack as the pilot suffered temporary blurring of vision and intense headaches. The police have again appealed to the general public to refrain from such unruly behavior. The offense can lead up to 5 years of imprisonment.
Air Ambulance Service Turns 20
Wales Air Ambulance service recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The date was the first of this month. The charitable organization that has a humble beginning started its service with just one helicopter two decades ago, reflected the founder during the occasion. Today, the service operates four air ambulance helicopters with coverage across the United Kingdom. The charity has undertaken over 38,000 missions during its operation. The organization has now set up a fundraising effort and aptly named it My20.
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.
If there is one thing that’s constant about medical flights, it is the fact that the industry is continually reinventing itself. From electric medical flights that are capable of vertical takeoff to dashboards that keep the crew updated with all the information they need during the flight, the sector is full of innovations. However, these innovations bring along something that the industry and its consumers do not desire, and that is the increase in costs. Balancing costs and enhanced efficiency is something that the industry has grappled with for quite some time. The question that arises is whether the innovations are proving too expensive for the industry.
The Rising Cost of Medical Flights has been a Long-Time Concern
The cost of medical flights never fails to make headlines. When middle-class families get slapped with huge air ambulance bills, eyebrows are naturally raised. The insurance coverage is often non-existent or so scant that they fail to cover the costs.
Innovations, in the midst of all this, can prove to be an added cost burden discouraging the industry to go ahead with them. Contributing further to it is the training and adaptation cost that adds fuel to fire. Then, what is the solution?
Rethinking the Least Likely Spaces
Fuel is one area that is a money burner. Aviation fuel does not come cheap. Moreover, the fuel itself is heavy, which translates into a need for more fuel to carry it. What if a predictive technology can be innovated to maintain optimum fuel levels? The other area is the material that goes into building the medical flights. What if the material that is lighter and less friction-causing is innovated? The list goes on. Of course, the focus needs to be trained on affordability.
All the research should ideally be funded by governments, communities, and corporates together with industry leaders. A model like this can truly take the costs in the right direction.