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Air Ambulances – The Ultimate Guide 2022

by admin on January 4, 2022

Air ambulance services transport patients from an accident site to a hospital or between hospitals, allowing patients to receive medical care at a specialized facility, such as a burn, cardiac, or trauma center.

Helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes are two types of air ambulances used for medical transports. An air ambulance service uses helicopters for short-haul emergency flights, especially for trauma-related emergencies when the time of the essence.

On the other hand, fixed-wing airplanes are used for long-distance emergencies and medical transports. In this guide, we will talk about airplanes as air ambulances. Airplanes are managed by companies, cities, and state emergency management systems.

Air ambulances are equipped with medical staff, including doctors, physicians, surgeons, nurses, and medical tools or equipment to transport seriously ill or injured persons to a specialized facility for treatment.

Air ambulance providers own and operate all aspects essential to carrying out the provided service, including the airplane, pilots, and medical teams. Research shows that air ambulance providers are typically hospital-owned operations, government services, or privately-owned companies that contract with health institutions.

Air ambulance providers compete primarily based on reliability, safety, price, airplane availability, fleet configuration, experience, medical capability, and service quality. In this guide, we will give you all the essential information you need on air ambulances. Read on!

The Air Ambulance Industry

According to the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS), the industry accounts for $16 billion in revenue in 2020. It has experienced a growth of 1.2% between 2015 and 2020. The U.S air ambulance is a $4 billion industry with 2.6% growth between 2015 and 2020.

The industry has more than 400,000 planes, including helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes, with more expected due to high demands. Various factors contribute to the increasing demand for air ambulance services in the U.S.

IBISWorld reports that air ambulance demand started to increase during the period of recession. Air ambulance services demand rose because patients waited until critical situations to receive treatment and care due to loss in health coverage.

Studies show that the U.S had closed over 400 hospitals and emergency centers between 1992 and 2002. Likewise, the reduction of beds in hospitals, especially in rural areas, made these health institutions more basic with insufficient facilities and medical staff.

Another reason for the high demand is the aging demographic. There were 605 million people worldwide over the age of 65. Research shows that the number will reach two billion by 2050. According to the U.S Census Bureau, the elderly population will reach 83.7 million by 2050.

Why would an Air Ambulance be Called?

Air ambulance services are available for a wide range of patients’ needs. For instance, people suffering from traumas in remote areas will often use an airplane to get to an advanced healthcare facility.

Likewise, if patients need transplants, they will use air ambulances, especially when they can’t travel far distances for surgery. Sometimes, patients who need transplants will have organs transported by air ambulance from foreign countries.

Air ambulances have qualified, experienced, and professional staff to keep the organs safe for transplant operations. Air ambulances are also used to transport a traffic accident victim to a big city, like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, or another country.

The patient is transported to the hospital by ground ambulance after the plane lands at the airport. The elderly population also uses air ambulance services when they can’t travel to another city or country without medical help. Continue reading!

Round-the-Clock Care

Some patients need round-the-clock care when traveling from or to another country. Because these people can’t travel in passenger planes, they hire an air ambulance service to receive the best care. The qualified and skilled staff ensures all patients transported via the airplane receive the best possible care during the flight.

Travelers and Rural Patients

Although people traveling in a foreign country rarely experience accidents and injuries, an air ambulance is the best way to return to the home country and receive care. A reputable company that offers air ambulance service globally will bring patients from any country to receive better healthcare and support from medical professionals, family, and friends.

Research shows that rural areas in the U.S need reforms in healthcare and the establishment of better health centers. In some parts of the U.S, people don’t have access to state-of-the-art healthcare, so they use air ambulances to get proper care in populated areas.

Medical Tourism

Some patients who suffer from chronic health conditions can’t travel on their own. Because such patients need medical help, they use air ambulances to travel safely. Last wish travel and family traveling to an engagement or wedding destinations are a few examples.

Likewise, people who travel for surgeries abroad will hire an air ambulance service if they need medical attention during the flight. For example, traveling to another country for minimally invasive surgery or cardiac operation requires a comfortable flight, meaning there is no other way to travel safely except via an air ambulance.

Cancer Patients

People suffering from different cancer conditions, such as breast, prostate, brain tumors, etc., often travel to state-of-the-art cancer facilities in big cities. Cancer centers are usually not available in rural areas, meaning patients use air ambulances along the journey to ensure they travel safely to any cancer center in metropolitans within the country or abroad.

Advanced Life Support

Travel care transports via airplanes are effective and safe because they have experienced medical staff equipped with basic and advanced life support tools. For instance, if a person needs vital assistance, such as breathing, while traveling, can use an air ambulance.

Burn Victims

Although rural areas have burn centers that can treat victims, a person with severe burns or injuries needs advanced treatment. In this regard, the patient’s family will need to transport him or her to a world-class health facility.

Bear in mind that this is impossible through ground ambulance services, especially if the patient needs to travel long distances. On the other hand, an air ambulance is a helpful way to travel to the location of an advanced hospital or burn center.

Spinal Injury Patients

Spinal injuries and conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, bone fractures, scoliosis, herniated discs, and neuropathic pain, can cause a lot of discomfort and frustration for patients. Spinal pain worsens when one has to travel through a passenger airplane for open-back or minimally invasive surgery.

An air ambulance has an experienced medical team who knows how to manage the patient’s back pain during the flight with anti-inflammatory medications, heat or cold therapy, and epidural steroid injections.

How Much Does Air Ambulance Cost

Health insurance typically covers air ambulance costs in specific emergencies. The insurance company will cover the costs when a health provider verifies the necessity of air transport for medical treatment.

Insurance companies do not cover transports for convenience, such as relocating to family. However, some companies have different air transport coverage policies, and they cover air transportation to a hospital or health facility near home for patients with injuries.

Remember, these insurance companies will cover the patient’s transport with injuries if they travel more than 200 miles from home. The out-of-pocket costs are usually between $50 and $500 for patients with health insurance.

If the patient does not have health insurance, an air ambulance’s cost will depend on the type of airplane used, the cost of jet fuel, the distance flown, and the medical team required. The price is less than $2,000 for a short flight to more than $50,000 for a long-distance domestic light.

If the patient is traveling internationally, the air ambulance service provider will charge $200,000 or more. Some companies charge between $2,500 and $3,000 for a 50-mile flight on a twin-engine plane. The airplane is equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, experienced medical staff, flight crew, and paramedics.

For example, a patient traveling from New York to Los Angeles on an airplane will pay between $35,000 and $50,000, depending on the air ambulance company. The ambulance has a doctor, surgeon, paramedic, and nurse.

Moreover, for a flight between Texas to New Zealand, most air ambulance services charge between $150,000 and $200,000 on a light jet. If the airplane is staffed by a medical team, the service will charge between $170,000 and $220,000. A patient traveling on a mid-sized aircraft will pay between $160,000 and $230,000.

What Does an Air Ambulance Service Include?

Experts recommend booking an air ambulance service in advance so the patient undergoes a pre-flight medical consultation and evaluation to determine the care and equipment required during the flight.

The flight takes place on a propeller plane, fix-wing aircraft, and jets equipped with all essential tools and advanced life-support equipment. These include oxygen, monitors, ventilators, defibrillators, intravenous (IV) equipment, and other supplies.

Most companies allow no more than two family members to accompany the patient without charging additional costs. Some companies do not offer ground ambulance service to transport the patient from the current hospital to the airplane.

You can arrange an air ambulance flight through a broker to save a significant amount of money by paying commissions to the broker. Most air ambulance companies offer discounts to patients in specific situations.

For instance, a patient traveling from New York to Miami and another fly back to New York from Miami will receive discounts. Bear in mind that each patient will receive discounts between 20% and 40%, depending on the company.

How Far can an Air Ambulance Fly?

According to U.S Air Ambulance, an airplane ambulance can fly over 100 miles or more, depending on the urgency of medical assistance. People choose to travel via an air ambulance when they can’t fly through commercial flights.

An air ambulance is equipped with a medical crew, flight crew, and equipment, including medications, respirators, oxygen tools, ECG monitors, and CPR equipment. Besides, the ambulance also has multiple stretchers to facilitate patients, ensuring comfort and convenience.

Air ambulances, such as fixed-wing aircraft, offer safe and comfortable transportation for patients who require traveling long distances to a healthcare facility. The air ambulance service is a vital part of the medical system.

For instance, an air ambulance is called when a critical patient needs transport from one facility to another, especially when the time is short. Air ambulances allow for quick transportation of patients over 100, 200 miles or more, depending on the company.

Moreover, some patients need to travel from and to another country. In that case, the patient’s family needs to hire a company that offers international medical transportation services. For example, a patient traveling from New York to London will fly more than 3,400 miles. It means international air ambulances can fly for thousands of miles.

Can Air Ambulances Fly at Night?

Most companies offer air ambulances that can transport patients at night. However, not all airports allow air ambulances to land at night. Flights at nighttime depend on the location and medical destination.

Some companies have policies that require patients to travel via ground ambulance to the airport and wait until the next day. Bear in mind that these companies don’t transport patients who require immediate treatment.

Some airports allow for nighttime landing and takeoff, enabling air ambulances to transport patients to a healthcare facility in another city or country. Nighttime is the best time for an air ambulance to fly because the thermal turbulence dissipates, the winds die down, allowing the aircraft to travel smoothly without any problems.

However, it is crucial to contact the company you want to hire for the medical transport service. The company’s customer support team will tell you whether their aircraft fly at nighttime. That way, you can make an informed decision on time.

Do Doctors on Air Ambulance Get Paid?

Although air ambulance doctors’ salaries vary from company-to-company, research shows that an emergency medicine physician or doctor’s pay ranges from $140 to $200 per hour. The average air ambulance salary for a doctor ranges from $150,000 to $300,000 per year. Bear in mind that the hourly rate or annual wage for doctors and paramedics depends on the company’s policies.

Flight physicians and doctors are specialists with many years of experience in emergency medicine. Doctors on an air ambulance are qualified, certified, and skilled to take care of patients during the flight. Some studies show that emergency doctors earn an average annual salary of over $285,000.

According to the Registered Nursing, registered nurses on an air ambulance have an average salary of $50,000-$95,000, depending on the company. Chron reports that paramedics on an air ambulance have an average median salary of $34,030 a year. Experienced paramedics have a median salary of $53,050 a year, while others have more than $19,880 annually.

Who Funds the Air Ambulance?

Air Ambulance companies follow one of the three business models, depending on their business policy. A hospital-based model involves the health facility making contracts with third-parties for aircraft, pilots, and maintenance.

A company or hospital that follows the independent model does not control the operations. These models consist of non-profit and for-profit providers who employ the flight crew and medical staff to provide services.

The last business model is called the “government model,” where municipal, state, or federal governments own and operate air ambulances. Before 2002, hospitals and health facilities owned and operated air ambulances.

However, Medicare made substantial efforts in 2002 to develop a fee schedule for air ambulances. Medicare investigated and evaluated the air ambulance industry and conducted thorough research into the “reasonable cost” for medical services on an emergency basis.

Moreover, the national fee schedule created by Medicare had increased reimbursement rates for air ambulance transport and elevated the payment rates for rural air transports in the United States.

The establishment of a fee schedule by Medicare allowed for-profit companies to establish and expand their air ambulance businesses and make money. Research shows that more than 50% of the air ambulance industry is owned and operated by four for-profit companies.

Do Air Ambulances Follow Safety Standards?

Air ambulance is a multi-billion dollar industry, and each service provider ensures flights are safe for patients. Companies have maintenance professionals who clear and release airplanes for each flight and accept them upon return.

The purpose is to ensure the company stays on top of all routines, scheduled maintenance, and the planes they release to meet their safety standards. Some companies have full-time crews that service the fleet at different bases across the country and aboard.

Likewise, most air ambulance companies have access to qualified and experienced mechanics in cities and countries worldwide. A reputable air ambulance company has crews with A&P licenses and certificates. Companies ensure their staff receive manufacturer or related training on the jet or aircraft specific to their bases.

Air ambulance companies have trained staff that conducts routine drills of Emergency Response Plan (ERP) as part of their Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approved safety management system.

The Director of Safety collaborates with the company leadership and departments to review and debrief ERP drills. Some companies are accredited by the U.S Department of Defense, while others have accreditation from the European Aero-Medical Institute (EURAMI).

These accreditations from the authorities ensure air ambulances’ quality and safety, covering all parts of the operation from aircraft certification to patient medical and emergency care. Thus, air ambulances are safe for patients’ transportation.

How to Choose an International Air Ambulance Service?

Time is the most critical factor for a person who gets sick or faces a severe injury while on a flight abroad. It is often challenging to choose a reliable international air ambulance service in a short period.

Experts recommend researching the best available medical service before people begin  their trips if they have any reason to suspect they may require such services at any point. The purpose is to ensure convenience, comfort, and reliability in an emergency. Here are a few factors you should consider before choosing an international air ambulance service.

Accreditation

International air ambulance services that help patients in a foreign country or the U.S require proper accreditation and certifications from authorities. Although each country has its own governing body and air regulations, you must check up on the service credibility.

Look for certifications and accreditations issued by renowned governing bodies, such as Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM), Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS), and European Aero-Medical Institute (EURAMI).

Crew Experience

A reputable air ambulance service has a team of experienced, qualified, certified, and trained professionals. Make sure you find out about the company’s airline crew, medical staff, ground staff, and technicians.

Call the customer support department and get all the essential information before choosing the company. Make sure the medical and airline crew have proper certifications and licenses.

Types of Services

It is crucial to determine the types of services offered by the air ambulance company. Under the corresponding situations, the company should provide both emergency and non-emergency options.

Ask the company whether it provides bed-to-bed transportation, physician’s appointments, pre-flight evaluations, organ or blood supplies, and other essential medical assistance. The service provider must also offer a 24/7 hotline or customer support to providing information on arrangements.

Family Member

Most people ask an important question: Can a family member accompany me in an air ambulance. The answer to this question is, “Yes.” Most air ambulance services allow one or two family members to accompany the patient.

Some companies charge for the family members, while others don’t charge extra money. Keep in mind that the number of family members allowed by the company depends on its policy, the patient’s situation or health status, medical crew or equipment abroad, and the traveling distance.

Final Words

Air ambulances are specialized services required by people in an emergency situation. An air ambulance service is essential for a patient to reach an advanced medical facility to get proper treatment for his chronic condition or injuries.

People usually need an air ambulance service when the local area hospital or health center does not have doctors or surgeons to treat the patient. Critical accident, stroke, accident in a foreign country, cancer treatment, acute cardiac, liver, spinal surgery, trauma treatment, organ replacement, and older adults need air ambulance services.

An air ambulance flight cost depends on various factors, such as the type of jet or aircraft, fuel required, medical team, including doctors, surgeons, physicians, nurses, and paramedics, and distance.

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