Emergent vs. Non-Emergent Air Medical Transport
When many people think of an air ambulance, the image that springs to mind is of a helicopter swooping down at the site of a serious accident. Indeed, emergency medical personnel may call for a helicopter over a ground ambulance if the patient has a life-threatening injury and needs to get to a trauma center very quickly and the nearest trauma center is far away, traffic is congested, the patient requires a higher level of care at the scene and en route (e.g. a flight nurse), and/or if there are multiple patients and the nearest trauma center can't handle all of them.
On the other hand, there are certainly emergency situations in which the fire department or emergency medical service will send a ground ambulance rather than a helicopter – as when the location (of the patient and the hospital) and traffic conditions are such that the ground ambulance can get the patient to treatment before the air ambulance might even have taken off.
But ground ambulance and helicopter air ambulances aren’t the only form of medical transport. And air ambulances aren’t just used to save car crash victims, rescue trapped hikers, or respond to mass casualty incidents. Often, air ambulances are used to move ill or injured patients from one hospital to another. In those situations, however, a fixed-wing aircraft (airplane) is often used, rather than a rotor-wing aircraft (helicopter).
Why use a fixed-wing aircraft for air medical transport? In certain situations, airplanes have advantages over rotor-wing aircraft. If a patient needs to travel a long distance, for example, a fixed-wing air ambulance is the better choice, since the plane can travel for a longer distance without needing to refuel. Fixed-wing aircraft can also carry more equipment, passengers, and luggage than helicopter air ambulances.
Fixed-wing is the kind of air medical transport an air ambulance provider like MedFlight911 offers. We classify a patient’s condition as emergent or non-emergent, and we serve both. Emergent (as in, urgent) means that that patient needs to be transported right away. In some cases, patients in an emergent situation are in critical condition (a burn victim, for example), but other times they’re not (as in the patient with an aortic aneurism). Many times, they need to be transported to a facility where they can get a higher level of care or more specialized care.
Patients in a non-emergent situation don’t need to be transported immediately. Perhaps the patient needs cancer treatment or hip surgery, or the patient has a traumatic brain injury and needs to move to a convalescent care facility. Sometimes, the patient is elderly and simply wants to be closer to relatives. Other times, the patient fell ill while travelling abroad and needs to get back to the U.S. for treatment. These are examples of the kinds of patients whose situations we would classify as non-emergent, yet who still need an air ambulance.
So there are a number of different types of ambulance transport, and they all serve different purposes. For emergent (the patient needs medical transport right away) or non-emergent medical transport over distances greater than 300 miles or so, the fixed-wing air ambulance is often a better choice than ground ambulance or helicopter (though medical motor coach and commercial medical escort are other options we’d consider for non-emergent transport).
We understand that it can be confusing to know which is the right form of medical transport for you or your loved one. We’ll help you understand your options.
To find out more about MedFlight911's worldwide air ambulance services give us a call at 888-359-1911 or get a no-obligation air medical transport quote here.