Every day people are transported in air ambulances for both emergency and non-emergency reasons. Often a medical flight is simply a way to transport a patient from one medical facility to another, perhaps in a different state or even country. Perhaps a patient needs the attention of a physician trained in a medical specialty that is not available where they live. On the other hand, medical flights are also used for patients who are critically ill and whose very life depends on being transported from a rural hospital to a life-saving trauma center — even though it may be several hundred miles away.
Even though the reasons for the medical flights may vary, whenever someone needs air transportation for medical reasons the plane should be properly equipped with the right medical flight equipment as well as properly trained medical personnel.
But how do you go about choosing an air ambulance service? You might start by looking at the reputations of several different services. Companies with outstanding reputations will always have modern airplanes, skilled professional medical personnel, and up-to-date life saving medical equipment on board every flight.
Let’s focus first of all on the medical personnel who are on board. A good air medical service should come with a skilled team of qualified medical personnel, including doctors, paramedics and nurses. Realizing that emergencies may take place during the flight, these professionals are in charge of the patient’s well being every step along the way. They should have all of the required certifications for safe medical air transport. In addition, they should regularly attend certified educational courses in order to keep current with the latest procedures in this highly specialized field.
Even though the majority of medical flights may not be for true medical emergencies, the planes should be up-to-date, the staff fully trained, and the medical flight equipment the most modern available.
After all, each flight presents a patient with unique needs. Some patients may only need to be kept warm and comfortable during their flight. Others, however, may require life saving equipment to be pressed into service while they are in the air.
What type of aircraft is best suited for medical transportation? It really depends on the location and duration of the flight. Many air ambulance services use small jets, such as Lear jets. But turboprop and twin engine airplanes can also be used quite adequately.
Before an assignment of aircraft is made, a trained coordinator should make the determination based upon the distance of the flight, the size of the nearest airport, and his or her knowledge of the city of destination. The goal is to arrive at the final destination with as little stress and disturbance to the patient as possible. It is important that the company you choose has the right medical equipment to best fill the needs of each patient.
By the way, a really good air ambulance service should be able to fly both within its national boundaries as well as to international destinations. They should view the patient and accompanying family members as welcome guests. They should show the patient and his or her family the same care as if they were their own personal family members.
What type of medical flight equipment should be included on an air ambulance flight? Let’s review some of the standard equipment that may prove to be life saving whenever a patient is being transported on a medical flight.
More than half of all medical flights take place during non-daylight hours. Therefore crews should be equipped with enhanced night vision goggles that will permit them to see and recognize any and all obstacles that may be in their path on the ground both before takeoff and after landing.
Special monitors that are designed to read and diagnose the vital signs of a patient are critical for air ambulances. Many monitors have been specifically designed for use on medical transport flights. Without going into a lot of scientific jargon, air pressure at varying altitudes can affect monitors. Therefore it is essential that the monitors used on board are designed for use on air ambulances.
An Isolette® incubator is designed for infants who are critically ill. These can monitor the baby’s vital signs, provide oxygen, and maintain a comfortable temperature, especially for premature babies, or neonates.
An i-STAT is a special hand-held blood analyzer that provides truly high quality analysis in real time. With an i-STAT on board the medical crew members will be able to perform extensive blood testing – and get the results immediately during the flight.
Ventilators are essential pieces of equipment. High quality ventilators can meet the needs of any patient and can be programmed to control the patient’s breathing. Again, the equipment used on any medical flight should be designed for use at varying altitudes.
Many cardiac patients, as well as other patients who are critically ill, may require more than one IV line so that the medical staff can administer both fluids and life-saving medications. Infusion pumps are vitally important, therefore, on every medical flight. Patients who were once considered too ill to travel by air can now be safely transported. This is largely due to the advancements of the infusion pumps which are now used on medical flights.