Working in the air ambulance industry can bring to fore those hidden emotions that people tend to burry up and no person is impervious to such emotional shakeup. Take for instance Prince Williams. The Duke has been quite vocal lately about mental health issues. However, he has hardly spoken about the loss of his mother out in public, apart from one time when he was about 15 years old. He lately opened up about it in the context of his stint as an air ambulance pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance company. He had been a part of it for about two years.
Prince William, Air Ambulance and His Emotions
The Prince had previously been a part of the nation’s defense forces and had ever served in Afghanistan. However, what churned up his hidden emotions related to his mother, Princess Diana, was his job as an air ambulance pilot. He said, finding himself in situations where death was always a possibility was hard to take on a daily basis. He added that the job as medical flight pilot made him depressed and the memories of having lost his mother at a young age surfaced quite often. He made his revelation as part of a documentary.
William Sharing His Feelings Sheds Light on the Mental Status of Air Ambulance Personnel
Air ambulance services are availed for life-threatening emergencies most of the time. The suffering patients who are under a lot of distress and struggling to stay alive can be quite impactful on the minds of the personnel. All this, while the crew cannot let their emotions get the better of them. Suppressing emotions becomes a norm and this pent up feeling can eventually lead to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. The industry needs to tackle this very seriously and focus towards having a mechanism that takes care of the mental wellbeing of the crew.
It is hard to believe that the future will see more efficient emergency transportation than air ambulances. However, it is true and that future is not very far. The advent of smart vehicles, autonomous driving technology, drones, electric power and the like are transforming emergency transportation today. In the age of patient centricity, the technology that suits the patients’ requirements will rule the industry. While vehicles capable of landing vertically will make a huge difference in treacherous plains, swiftly moving vehicles will be in demand when time is vital. Here, we take a brief look at the different technologies that are making waves today.
Flying Cars and Air Ambulances
Flying cars have been testing human imagination since the 1980s. Their biggest advantage is their ability to take off and land vertically, as well as the fact that they are highly compact. Now, with technology enabling efficient ground support, it will come as no surprise if we see flying cars being used as air ambulances. The other major advantage from the air ambulance service providers’ point of view is the ability to store or park these vehicles without much expense. The current system where they are expected to hire spaces in large hangars can be done away with if flying cars become a reality and can in turn bring down the cost of availing the service too.
Drones and Autonomous Vehicles
A lot of innovation and research has gone into autonomous vehicles and drones. In fact, a combination of these technologies can be quite exciting. Imagine a scenario where an air ambulance company dispatches an autonomous drone capable of handling heavy loads while controlling it remotely. There would not be a need for pilot. This will also make more space for the patient in the compact vehicle, where he or she gets all the life support required.
The technology that guides air ambulances will further improve as artificial intelligence, internet of things, big data and the like progress.
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.
Air medical transport paramedics often encounter patients when they are in their worst possible physical condition. Many a times the victims are desperate out of pain or the sheer will to survive. With so much going on around them, air medical transport paramedics are expected to be stoic so that their actions and emotions do not get in the way of performing their life-saving duties effectively. Imagine a situation where you are the one who has to break the news to a family that there’s nothing more that can be done to save the life of the one they love. Imagine another situation where a murderer, while running away from the cops, injures himself gravely. The paramedic would still have to attend to this felon with equal professionalism without letting personal emotions getting in the way.
Air Medical Transport Paramedics Face Assaults too
Air medical transport paramedics sometimes have to treat people under the influence of drugs and alcohol who do not behave logically. This can lead to assaults and threats. They are expected to remain unaffected by such occurring and to carry out their duties. Also, in the field, there are protocols that need to be followed. This means a paramedic, despite knowing what treatment is to be provided, might not be authorized to administer such treatment. Situations like these can lead to a lot of frustration.
The Physical Aspects of the Job
Paramedics have to do a lot of heavy lifting and moving as part of their job. Injuries to the lower back, wrists and shoulders are not rare among paramedics for this reason. The long hours of work only add to these problems. The lack of rest during extreme emergencies can lead to a lot of physical fatigue which can manifest in mental irritation as well. The only solace through all this is the fact that the job actually makes a difference to people’s lives.
People with a flair for adventure and a want to do good for the society are the ones who usually choose a career in the air ambulance industry. Of course, money is a criterion too and, for the most part, remuneration too is considered good. We have, in the past, pointed out that there is going to be a continually huge demand for air ambulance technicians and pilots in the days to come and the demand will last for almost a decade or even more. However, not many people understand that the industry is at the cusp of a disruption for the good and technology is leading this change. In the days to come, innovation will drive the industry to bring about efficiency in cost, customer experiences and operations.
How Technology Drives Air Ambulance Flying Experiences
The way customer data is utilized by air ambulance companies will determine what kind of experience they ultimately provide to their customers. Their health needs can be taken care of more efficiently. This data also opens up ancillary sales opportunities. For example, the luxury that a patient is used to or the expectations of the person accompanying the patient can be gleaned through the various online tools at our disposal today.
There is also connected technology or IoT or Internet of Things, which connects the various parts of a flight to the ground staff for ongoing monitoring of its flight worthiness. The technology can even make predictive maintenance possible wherein an air ambulance organization can predict a problem that the aircraft might encounter and take anticipatory action to avoid the problem all together.
Newer Technology Means Newer Opportunities
With all these technologies proving useful for the air ambulance industry, the innovative digital skills needed for their implementation will be in high demand. People looking for a career in the air ambulance sector have a wider career option today.
Imagine this: the medical flight has emergency personnel seated in it and is en route to pick up a patient in a remote area but there’s one crucial member of the crew missing. Guess who? The pilot! Yes, that’s right! The medical flight technology is slowly moving toward autonomous flights that are sans pilots. If this sounds like science fiction to you, here’s a surprise. SkyRyse, which is a Silicon Valley start up, is already testing autonomous helicopters in emergency settings. It is known to have carried police and emergency personnel safely in response to mock emergency calls and the testing will continue.
How Safe is the Autonomous Medical Flight Technology?
Experts feel that it is quite safe. It is believed that the flights use the same technology that is used in driverless cars. A combination of software and hardware that is continually monitored from the control room and a medical flight that is controlled by itself – that about sums up what this technology is all about. Although the technology is still in a nascent stage, it will make huge strides in the days to come. A lot of this technology’s development will depend on machine learning and artificial intelligence which will allow it to learn the nuances of flying without any human intervention.
The Factors that will Make this Technology a Success
Ask yourself this question, “Am I ready to take a medical flight that does not have a pilot?” Trust of the customers in the new technology is going to be a decisive factor. Then there is the cost. It is a tussle between the cost of acquiring such a technology and the return on investment that it ultimately brings. Will this new technology demand high maintenance cost? Or will it reduce it? Regulations are another factor. Innovations that have the potential to give rise to safety risks typically take longer to get government approvals. For now, it’s a wait and watch for all of us.
Perhaps the biggest problem that people who avail medical air transportation services face is unexpected costs that run into thousands of dollars, even when they are covered by their health insurance policies. Now, a new bill has been passed by the state of Virginia that seeks to end this uncertainty. The bill is called ‘Air Medical Transportation; Informed Decision’. The bill was introduced by Jeremy S. McPike and it went into effect on March 1, 2019. It was passed by the House and Senate of Virginia with zero votes against it recently. Here, we discuss what this bill will mean for the common citizens.
What is Virginia Medical Air Transportation Bill All About?
The bill mandates that hospitals establish processes, which necessitate giving an electronic or written notice to the patients or their authorized representatives. The notice should contain the cost implications of availing medical air transportation services. It should also contain the alternative options including emergency ground ambulance options. If the medical air transportation is out of network of the patient’s health insurance, this fact too must be made apparent. Even if the medical air transportation is covered only in part, it has to be brought to the attention of the patient or his/her authorized representative.
What will the New Bill will do for the Patients?
Patients in Virginia will now have the power to choose whether they want to avail medical air transportation services. Further, it will let them know the cost implications beforehand so that they do not get any nasty surprises in the form of huge bills later on. It is a good attempt by the state to bring about transparency in billing.
It is hoped that the medical insurance companies and the medical air transportation industry will ultimately come to an understanding with regards to costs, facilitated by this bill.
Traumatic brain injuries can be fatal and demand urgent medical attention that airambulance services can provide. According to a statistic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries are among the leading causes of disability and even death in the United States of America. To put a number to the extent of its dangerousness, traumatic brain injuries account for about 30% of all deaths associated with injuries. The leading causes of brain injuries in the country are assaults, motor vehicle accidents, sports related mishaps, and falls. While the risk of falls is considered high among senior citizens, sports are a major cause for traumatic brain injuries among the younger population.
Ambulance Sometimes Becomes a Necessity in Traumatic Brain Injuries
The survival rate of a patient increases drastically if he or she receives treatment right on time. This is where airambulance services come into play. If the injury occurs in remote or rural areas where access to adequate neurological care is next to impossible, the only recourse that remains is transportation by airambulance. Among the advantages of using airambulance services apart from the speed is the comfort and facilities that they offer. They are usually better equipped. Also, the chances of secondary trauma owing to transport are almost zero when the airambulance is used for transport.
The Immediate Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury
It must be noted that the symptoms related to traumatic brain injury vary based on the severity of the injury. Patients are usually seen experiencing mild-to-severe changes in personality or behaviour, loss of sensation in any or several parts of the body, muddled or impaired thought process, loss of memory, impairment in vision, slurring of speech, inability to move one or more parts of the body. Airambulance services usually employ specific protocols when traumatic brain injuries are involved and utmost care is taken to keep the patient safe so that the chances of long-term consequences are minimum to none.
According to a recent report by Government Accountability Office, 69 percent of air ambulance flights are not covered by private insurance providers. That is more than two thirds of the air ambulances out there in the country. There are a total of about 20,700 medical flights in the United States of America to put a number to this fact. The median price that was charged by air ambulance companies when a helicopter was involved was about USD 36,400 in 2017. The price shot up to USD 40,600 when the need for medical transportation involved fixed-wing aircrafts in the same year. When the complaints pertaining to balance billing to Government Accountability Office were examined, it was seen that the balance billing amounts were at least USD 10,000.
Consider the Necessity of Air Ambulance Service Seriously
Unfortunately, air ambulance services are hardly a consideration when one opts for a private health insurance. The wise thing would be to ask the agent whether they cover air ambulance services. One needs to do this proactively. Moreover, one must specifically ask which of the air ambulance companies are in-network of the private health insurance provider. Once you come to know of the names, check whether these air ambulance companies offer service in your region specifically. There are a lot of regional medical flight companies in the United States of America. Avoid the off chance that the air ambulance companies covered by insurance do not serve your region.
Be Wise and Purchase Air Ambulance Memberships
Air ambulance memberships can be very cheap. The memberships are usually renewed annually. Find out the air ambulance companies in your region and check what kind of memberships they offer. Opt for a membership that covers your entire family. It would not be a bad idea to hold memberships with more than one air ambulance company. These memberships protect the end customers from balance billing. Another great idea is to suggest your employer to get group memberships for the staff of the company as this can get the price of memberships down significantly.
Of course, it all begins with the aircraft model that a medical flight company purchases. Each aircraft is different in some way or the other. However, once the purchase is made, there are certain aspects that one must consider to ensure that the medical flight is fit and convenient enough to provide the healthcare that is expected of it. Here, we discuss a few of those in some detail.
The Floor of the Medical Flight
The floor is a very critical part of the medical flight. It must be such that the in-flight as well as maintenance crew must be able to clean it efficiently and quickly. The emergencies that come a medical flight’s way can involve a lot of blood and other elements, which need to be cleaned out as quickly as possible to maintain hygiene. This might necessitate floor drains and the design must be such that modifications like these can be easily made. Also, the floor can see a lot of heavy equipment which is often moved with little care for the floor itself, so the floor must be sturdy enough to take such abuse.
Important Considerations that Must be Kept in Mind
Today, it is necessary that an aircraft has modern connection facilities such as USBs. Customization is another factor. Depending on the situation, the crew must be able to quickly put in cabins, add/remove seats and/or stretchers. Proper mounts for medical devices must already be in place. While all such facilities bring in a high level of convenience, safety remains the primary concern. For this reason, all the modifications must be certified by a competent agency.
Care must be taken to make use of the space available to the maximum. For instance, the stretcher must be able to double up as a bed that can be immobilized on the flight. Plus, the space beneath the stretcher could be used for storage by building custom cabinets. It is obvious that a one-size-fits-all approach generally does not work; however, a creative approach to the medical flight interiors can go a long way to make it comfortable and efficient.