Medical Motor Coach Transport: One More Medical Transport Option for the Patient
A couple of weeks ago MedFlight911 did a medical transport for a patient from the East coast to the Midwest by medical motor coach. I was telling a colleague about how well the transfer went (for everyone involved) and he asked a great question: “Why would a patient want to travel by motor coach rather than by commercial air or air ambulance?”
Here’s my answer.
I should say at the outset, as I’ve said before, that the right form of medical transport depends on each patient’s unique circumstances. Our job at MedFlight911 is to help case managers and/or patients and family members find that right form of medical transport for the patient.
For some patients a medical motor coach transfer is the best choice, because of a number of unique benefits that it offers over a commercial air medical escort or air ambulance. Here, I’ve listed four of those benefits.
Medical motor coach v. commercial air medical escort or air ambulance
1. Sometimes patients are limited in the positions they can safely travel in. One patient, for example, couldn’t safely sit up, even in a stretcher, for more than a few minutes. Because her medical condition was not an emergency, we might have considered a commercial air medical escort, though in her case she wouldn’t have been able to sit upright for takeoff and landing as FAA regulations require.
An air ambulance was certainly an option – in an air ambulance the patient is on a stretcher with a range of adjustable positions. Still, positioning and movement is more limited on an air ambulance, in part because the space is so small. A medical motor coach, in contrast, offers a lot more space and flexibility in how we can position a patient to maximize her comfort. In many cases, the patient is able to change positions throughout the trip to maximize comfort.
2. Medical motor coach transfer reduces the number of times we have to move the patient. When we transfer a patient by air ambulance, the process typically works like this: we pick up the patient at the departing facility, transfer the patient from his or her bed into a ground ambulance, drive to the airport, then transfer the patient into the air ambulance. Once we arrive at our destination, we transfer the patient into another ground ambulance, drive to the receiving facility, and transfer the patient into his or her new bed. So there are at least eight transitions for the patient (potentially many more if we’re transporting the patient by commercial air medical escort).
Ground medical transport via motor coach, in contrast, is one of the only true bed-to-bed long-distance transport methods. We pick the patient up at his or her departing facility, transfer her into the motor coach and help her get comfortable. The patient stays in the medical motor coach all the way to the receiving facility, where we transfer her out of the motor coach and into her new bed – for a total of just two transitions.
3. A medical motor coach transport is typically a more cost effective medical transport option compared to air ambulance. Of course, our priority is the health and safety of the patient. But when a medical motor coach transport is a good option from the health and safety standpoint, it is typically far more cost effective than an air ambulance.
4. In some cases, a patient is in a rural area or some area that’s relatively inaccessible by airplane. In this case, the patient could be transferred from his or her departing facility to the airport by helicopter or ground ambulance, but again that increases the number of times we have to move the patient. So another benefit of the motor coach is the fact that it can literally go anywhere that there is a road. (Though an international medical motor coach transfer would be far more complicated – for international medical transfers air ambulance or commercial air medical escort are likely the best options.)
In some circumstances, as we’ve highlighted here, medical motor coach makes the most sense – both in terms of patient safety and comfort and in terms of cost effectiveness. But there are cases, of course, where an air ambulance is the only viable option (as when the patient is in critical condition and needs to get from bed to bed as quickly as possible, or in the case of international transfers).
So none of this should be construed as an argument against air ambulance medical transport or commercial air medical transport. The majority of the transfers we do for our patients are by air ambulance. But that’s not the only option, and it’s not the best option for every patient. Again, the right form of medical transport depends on the patient and his or her circumstances. At MedFlight911, we help our patients with whichever medical transport mode is best for them.