It was not too long ago that news headlines were abuzz with the possibility of ending surprise billing but now, it seems nothing much has changed. The air ambulance industry too was watching the development with much anticipation. What happened to all the efforts surrounding it? If this question has across your mind, you are not alone. Thousands of Americans were hoping that the practice ends, and they can avail healthcare facilities without worrying about insurance coverage. Had the bill been passed, people would have enjoyed seamless coverage despite being in or out of insurance networks. However, this does not seem to be the case anymore. Let’s take a look at what happened.
Are Private Equity Investors to Be Blamed?
There are allegations flying around that big investors ran an aggressive ad campaign to cast doubts on the move to ban surprise billing practices. On the part of the air ambulance industry, it must be noted that several service providers had enrolled themselves with various insurance providers to widen their network – a very welcome move.
Another set of people believe that lobbying against the bill was quite strong. In that, some of the lawmakers, at the end of it, were not very keen on ending the practice. The reason behind this is not entirely clear, though.
Is COVID-119 to be Blamed?
Many industries, including the air ambulance industry, had felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the world. The increase in cost – owing to extensive sanitization and pandemic protocols – and reduction in demand were just a few of the reasons that put economic pressure on the air ambulance industry. Besides, the availability of medical staff became a big concern. The government too was grappling with ways to combat the unprecedented situation. With so many things weighing in, the will to do away with surprise billing seems to have simply vanished – at least for the time being.
Air ambulance services are as good as the speed with which they respond to emergencies. Many times the long paper trail – considered essential to remain compliant with rules – works adversely in the air ambulance services’ ability to respond on time. Going paperless can change the whole paradigm and bring efficiency to the services. It is not a tough feat to achieve in a world that is highly interconnected today. However, the various stakeholders involved in rescue and emergency response operations will have to come under one umbrella. It is only then that connectivity holds true meaning.
Air Ambulance Services Cannot Function in Isolation
The air ambulance services have always been at the forefront of technological innovation but going paperless and leveraging the Internet to its maximum is impossible without having all the stakeholders involved within a common network. With cloud computing technology now in place, it is an easy hurdle to overcome. All that is required is the will to do it. However, one must map out the various stakeholders effectively for this endeavor to be a grand success. Ground ambulances, treatment facilities, insurance providers, regulatory bodies, and the like must be a part of this all-encompassing network.
A Centralize Real-Time Database is Necessary
The United States today has a centralized repository of health records that is highly flexible. It allows all medical care providers to connect to a central database. It does not matter what operational software each provider uses, they can retrieve and add data securely from and to the common pool. What if the database was made wider? It could include emergency services. This would negate the need for paper and make coordination a completely seamless process. For patients, it would mean quicker and more transparent services. For air ambulance services, it would mean better reach and higher efficiency.
Medical flights can fly above almost any terrain but landing can be a worry. Rappelling from choppers has its own risk, putting the lives of the rescuers and the injured in grave danger. Spinning out of control and hitting adjacent rocks in a mountainous environment are just a few of the risks. That said, for people stranded in the toughest of the terrain with no access to roads, medical flights are the only recourse. However, these too are not without logistical restrictions. Reaching the stranded ones, especially when they are injured, is a logistical nightmare. Getting the medical staff to such terrains is almost impossible, and the people, who can reach them, often lack the medical expertise.
Jet Suits Can Further the Reach of Medical Flights
Imagine donning a jet suit to bounce out of medical flights, reaching the injured on time, and flying back again into the air ambulance. That can do wonders, right? While it might seem like a scene from a James Bond movie, it may soon become a reality. In fact, a British company is currently working towards exactly this. The company that is behind this brilliant effort is Gravity Industries. The organization recently released a video where they simulated a rescue mission in a jet suit.
About the Simulation
The simulation published by the company shows a paramedic pilot in a jet suit, traversing tough terrains to rescue an injured 10-year-old girl. The entire effort takes just about 90 seconds, whereas the same rescue on foot would take about an hour and a half. The suit makes way for travel at an astounding 51 km per hour and can move horizontally as well as vertically. If this is finally good enough for use in real-life situations, it can augment the efforts of medical flights to a huge extent. For now, we will just have to wait and watch, hoping that it becomes a reality soon.
Air ambulance industry and drones – the partnership sounds like a perfect plot for another part of the ‘Back to the Future’ series, doesn’t it? Well, not anymore. The possibility seems more like a reality with several firms working towards this goal today. We are already used to seeing drones among hobbyists, photographers, and even scientists. Then there are what seems like hypothetical implementations such as flying taxis and courier services. You will be surprised to know that companies such as Amazon and Uber are pursuing these possibilities with all seriousness and have invested quite a bit in them.
The Air Ambulance Industry is Already Using Drones
Emergency equipment like defibrillators is already being used by the air ambulance industry today, although the prevalence is not widely felt. Then there are larger drones, popular as autonomous aerial vehicles that are making news waves every now and then. Researchers are even working on surveillance drones for emergencies in remote areas. The ability of drones to reach areas where conventional helicopters cannot reach is their advantage. Besides, while a few thousand dollars might be at stake in risky situations, no lives are at risk with drones.
It is a Dicey Road to Tread
The problem lies in people not realizing the true potential of drones. More often, we find overenthusiastic hobbyists flying drones too close to flights. This is a concern that even the air ambulance industry has raised quite often. The prevalence of such use attracts the attention of lawmakers and rightly so, but they are also a hurdle.
It is quite possible that air ambulance industry operators will have to procure separate licenses when it comes to drones, once their use gains mainstream credibility. However, it might be a necessity considering that skies need to be safer for everyone. All said and done, the air ambulance industry is all set for a new evolution in the near future.
It was a normal family outing for 11-year-old Emilia, fondly referred to as Millie by her family. Never had they dreamt that soon they would be in need of an air ambulance service. The family was out on a horse riding activity when all of a sudden Emilia fell off her pony. That was not all, further aggravating the situation was the fact that the pony’s hoof landed on her jaw. The little girl’s jaw was shattered, and she was in immense pain as the family watched helplessly. That is when the air ambulance service arrived, right in time to offer much-needed help.
The Air Ambulance Service was Crucial
North West Air Ambulance Service was quick to reach the spot and immediately administered morphine to relieve the pain. Once that was accomplished the girl was evacuated to a medical facility where she received jaw correction treatment. The evacuation was done through a land ambulance, but the initial treatment offered by the air ambulance service was crucial. She also got replacement teeth as a few had been lost due to the accident.
The Parents Express their Gratitude
The mother of the child was a first-hand witness to the accident, and she described the incident as horrifying. She was thankful for the air ambulance service that arrived in time for support and treatment. The family, as a mark of gratitude, arranged a charitable event to raise funds for the air ambulance. It was an equestrian event and they managed to raise about 600 British pounds. The family also said that they would do everything in their means to contribute to the medical flight organization. It must be noted in this context that in the United Kingdom, air ambulances depend on charitable contributions by the community to stay afloat. The accident occurred in July, and the girl has now recovered and is healthy.
The life of an air ambulance pilot is risky with weather conditions that transform without warning and the ongoing COVID-19 situation. However, it is not impossible to take precautions and prepare for them. Then, there are mindless pranks that are played by miscreants not fully comprehending the repercussions of their acts. One such act is shooting laser lights at air ambulance pilots. Recently, a Wiltshire air ambulance pilot was subject to one such prank that left him temporarily unable to see and the landing had to be aborted. Just imagine being pilot mid-air, in a situation where visibility is suddenly near-zero. Scary, isn’t it?
The Air Ambulance Pilot’s Family is Scared for His Life
The wife of the air ambulance pilot has appealed to people through a video that was posted on one of her social media channels. The woman breaks into tears as she appeals to people to refrain from shooting laser beams at pilots. The pilot is also a father of twin girls. His wife conveyed through her heart-wrenching video message that she loves her husband very much and hopes to see him walking his daughters down the aisle someday.
She Called to Ban Laser Lights
Laser lights can travel up to 50 miles. This humongous range brings almost all aerial vehicles within its range. It is hard to understand why such a tool must be put in the hands of the public. Laser lights are quite affordable and can be bought for as little as a few dollars. The woman has appealed to the government to pass rules that prohibit the sale of this item.
The pilot in question was on a training mission when the incident occurred. However, had it occurred during a live mission, it would have to be aborted putting the patient’s life at risk owing to delayed treatment.
Vertical takeoff and landing is perhaps the most important feature for any air ambulance that operates in urban areas. The reason for this are several and range from the lack of landing space to heavy traffic. Air ambulance helicopters do a pretty good job at this; however, they are not always suited for the job due to the huge rotors. What one needs is a compact air ambulance that is capable of vertical takeoff and landing while being able to accommodate enough patients, medical staff as well as medical equipment. In a recent development, this seems like a reality.
A US Company Partners with an Israeli Aeronautical Company
A New York-based company called Hatzolah Air has got into an agreement with Urban Aeronautics, which is an Israeli company. According to reports, the aeronautical company is in possession of a former military prototype, now approved for civilian use. The uniqueness of this design lies in its internal rotors. The company, it is reported, has already completed over 300 flights successfully thus far. The New York-based company will call its air ambulance CityHawk once it is completed according to its spokesperson. It would be capable of landing right in the midst of busy traffic without too much disruption and be able to evacuate patients effortlessly.
The Air Ambulance Vehicle will be Quite Sizeable
The air ambulance will be capable of carrying two emergency medical service personnel, a pilot, a patient, a companion for the patient, and all the necessary medical equipment. Considering that the vehicle would be much smaller than the traditional helicopters, this is quite an impressive feat. It is estimated that the current market for this type of air ambulance would be about 800, which is pretty good. The development of the air ambulance and procurement of certification from the FAA is expected to take anywhere between 3 to 5 years.
The air ambulance charities in the United Kingdom are no strangers to celebrity endorsements, Prince William being of the most noticeable among them. However, recently, the industry has found a new patron and that is none other than Gordon Ramsey of the Hell’s Kitchen fame. The celebrity chef has quite a fan following owing to his fiery on-screen critique of various cuisines and cooks. He is also quite popular for his Twitter outreach where he grades food of common people who come to him for validation. His quirky replies are quite a hit in the online community. A celebrity with outreach like this can do loads of good for air ambulance charities.
Cornwall Air Ambulance has Been Gordon’s Choice
It is reported that Gordon Ramsey and his wife have recently spent quite some time in the Cornwall area. During their stay, they have come to realize the important roles that air ambulance charities play to maintain public health. It has this realization that has pushed the couple to help the industry. The organization attends to about 800 incidents, which puts the number to over 2 incidents per day and that is quite commendable.
The Endorsement is Much Needed
Most of the air ambulance charities have been struggling to stay afloat in recent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United Kingdom, where most air ambulance organizations are charity-based, funding is dependent on community efforts. However, with the highly infectious pandemic gripping the nation, charitable activities have been hard to organize. In this situation, a celebrity like Gordon Ramsey can do a lot of good.
Speaking about his decision, Gordon said, “Cornwall has been our family home now for five years and we have always been totally in awe of the lifesaving work we see the Cornwall Air Ambulance do every day.”
Imagine taking off in an air ambulance but without a pilot! Seems like a scene from a science fiction movie, right? Well, not anymore. The technology is already a reality, and now, the efforts are on to make it more widely available. The International Civil Aviation Organization has set out on an ambitious project that will soon see our skies fill with autonomous air ambulance vehicles. The fact that these will be “electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles” makes the entire prospect even more exciting. In this context, it must be noted that it will be cheaper and more eco-friendly than its yesteryear counterparts.
EHang Air Ambulance is Leading the Way
EHang is a Nasdaq-listed company that has pioneered the autonomous air ambulance vehicle industry. The company finds it origin in China where it has already been deployed during the COVID-19 crisis. Imagine being able to control the air ambulance from the ground. There would not be a need to have the entire crew on board, thus minimizing the risk of contracting the infection. Plus, these compact air ambulance vehicles can easily land and take off without the need for a lot of space. EHang will be the guiding force of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s project and is expected to share its technical and operational expertise in the arena.
EHang has found great success in its passenger grade aircraft that it calls the EHang 216. It is a two-seater that is ideal for transporting patients and medical supplies to reasonably short distances. It must be noted that international repatriations will still be something that the traditional air ambulance vehicles will have to undertake. It is noteworthy that most air ambulance evacuations are domestic and involve motor vehicle accidents and medical emergencies due to underlying chronic diseases. It would not be an overstatement to say that autonomous air ambulances are all set to change we handle medical emergencies in the days to come.
ECMO or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine is a device that takes over some of the functions of the heart and lungs, thus providing the much-needed rest for both these vital organs. It has been seen that a malfunction of lungs is a major cause of COVID-19 fatalities. At times, patients have needed a lung transplant to stay alive. A South Korean woman aged 56 years was in a similar situation recently and was fighting for her life in Mexico. She had developed pulmonary fibrosis due to the underlying COVID-19 infection. The only way to survive was a lung transplant.
Air Ambulance to the Patient’s Rescue
Lung transplant is a major medical procedure, and naturally, the Korean woman and her family wanted to get it done in their own country. South Korea enjoys a robust healthcare system just like the United States. Moreover, it is always better to undergo a major procedure surrounded by people that one is familiar with. However, there was one problem. The woman had to be flow in this critical condition for an extended period. This is when the ECMO machine came into the picture. The air ambulance used was literally an ICU with this equipment.
The Air Ambulance Creates a Record in the Process
The US-based air ambulance Jet Rescue was tasked with this challenge. After extensive consultation with medical experts, it was deemed that the risk was worth taking to save the woman’s life. A Learjet-36 was chosen for the task. The journey was chalked out by scheduling periodic stops for oxygen and fuel refills. The air ambulance finally took off and successfully transported the patient to South Korea. During the process, the air ambulance company made a record. It now holds the distinction of being the longest medical flight with an ECMO machine onboard. The feat is quite an encouragement as this equipment can prove life-saving for patients with COVID-19 infection.