The Air Ambulance Transport Process Explained: From Departing Facility to Receiving Facility
If you're in a situation where you need an air ambulance, you may be confused, scared or nervous. Air medical transport is a new experience for most people, and the unknown, combined with the stress of a serious medical situation, can create a lot of anxiety both for the patient and loved ones. To help ease some of those concerns, I'd like to explain some of the typical steps in the air ambulance transport process, from when our medical flight crew arrives at the patient’s bedside all the way to the receiving facility. While each situation we deal with is unique, this should give you some idea of what to expect.
Step 1: The medical crew arrives at the departing facility. At MedFlight911 Air Ambulance, we strive to provide bedside-to-beside service. That means that the medical crew (two medically-trained flight crew and two ambulance crew) will meet the patient at his or her current location. They'll take the time to talk with the patient and his or her family and get to know them a bit. They'll also assess the patient's medical condition. Once our flight crew has a good understanding of the patient's situation, they'll work with a ground ambulance crew to transfer the patient to a ground ambulance, stretcher van, or other vehicle. Then, we head to the airport.
Step 2: We arrive at the airport, which is a local FBO (fixed base of operation – not the same facility you'd be going to if you had a commercial flight). The patient and accompanying passengers won’t have to pass through a TSA security checkpoint like you’re used to at commercial airports (though we are required to check everyone who’s flying on plane against the TSA’s no-fly list) and there’s no waiting at the gate to board the plane. Instead, we're able to seamlessly transfer the patient from the ground ambulance to the air ambulance. We'll also move any required medical equipment to the plane and perform another assessment of the patient. Any accompanying family members will board the plane at this point.
Step 3: We get underway. During the flight, our air medical transport crew is exclusively focused on caring for the patient. When possible, accompanying passengers will be able to sit near and communicate with the patient. Please bear in mind that of course the patient's wellbeing is our primary concern, so being able to sit near and communicate with him or her may not always be possible.
Step 4: If the flight has come from outside of the U.S., the plane will land at the nearest available FBO after crossing the U.S. border so that the patient, flight crew, and passengers can pass through customs. The customs process can vary depending on the particular FBO as well as the country of origin. Sometimes, a customs agent will board the plane to check everyone through customs; other times the flight crew, passengers, and patient if possible will have to deplane and go through a more traditional customs process inside the FBO. Regardless, the patient and all passengers are required to have standard customs documentation, including passport.
Step 5: We arrive at the destination airport. Once we’ve carefully transferred the patient off the plane, there will be a ground ambulance or other form of transportation waiting to meet us. Just as we did at the departure airport, our medical flight crew will carefully transfer the patient to the ambulance. In most cases, they'll also travel with the patient to her final destination.
If the patient has family members travelling with us, they may or may not be able to accompany the patient in the ground transport, depending on the patient’s medical needs and number of accompanying passengers (typically a ground ambulance can accommodate only one passenger). If the family member(s) cannot accompanying the medical crew and patient in the ground transport, we will arrange a cab or town car to transport accompanying passengers to the destination facility.
Step 6: We arrive at the destination facility. Still accompanied by our air medical transport flight crew, the patient is transferred to the receiving facility. Our crew sees that the patient is comfortably settled and communicates any issues or concerns to the medical team at the new location, thus ensuring a seamless continuity of care.
Now these 6 bedside-to-bedside steps are just part of the entire transport process. So check back in coming weeks for posts on:
- You Need an Air Ambulance. Now What? – An overview of what to expect from MedFlight911 when you call us for a transport quote, and some tips on how to choose the right air medical transport provider.
- The Pre-Transport Process: From Choosing the Air Ambulance Provider to the Plane’s On Its Way – An overview of what to expect once you’ve chosen MedFlight911, from the information we’ll need from you to the arrangements we’ll be making with the patient’s care providers.
- While the Patient’s in the Air: Behind the Scenes of an Air Medical Transport – Our aim is to provide our patients and their families a seamless transport experience. To accomplish that, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, even as the air ambulance is en route.
You can find out more about our air ambulance services in our earlier blog posts, or give us a call at 888-359-1911 or get a no-obligation air ambulance transport quote here.