Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Air ambulance services

Good find by symtym: As Medical Airlifts Proliferate, the Public Price Tag Is Rising.

This is interesting from several viewpoints. We have seen articles on several blogs about office practices refusing to see drug reps. In the ER where I work we do occasionally see drug reps, but I was surprised to get a visit from a private, non-hospital affiliated air ambulance service.

We have actually had several visits from them while I was there and I don't know how many during other docs' shifts. One day we got a radio call to prepare our helipad for an incoming helicopter. We had no idea why a helicopter was inbound. The private air ambulance service was bringing us pizza!!! Hey, beat that, Dominoes!!

That was pretty cool, but who ultimately pays for the cost of those pizzas and the delivery?

Another viewpoint would be to analogize this to tow trucks. It used to be that individual police officers could call whatever tow truck service they preferred. Or it might be up to the dispatcher. Frequently, there would be fights among tow truck operators when several, listening to their scanners, would show up at a wreck at the same time. Now, most large communities have laws regulating "jumping a wreck" and a rotation listing at dispatch. The towing service has to be certified and registered or they are breaking the law by responding.

At our ER, most of our air transfers are to one of the local Level I trauma centers. We call the ER or one of the admitting services, get acceptance and the hospital sends its intrinsic air ambulance service. However, occasionally we need to fly a patient to a referral hospital that doesn't have its own helicopter service. I guess we could call the private service, but, out of habit, we usually call the trauma center and use their helicopter.

We certainly can't have helicopter services, hot on deck, listening to their scanners and racing to the scene when a helicopter is requested.

Perhaps there will need to be a central dispatch service, as there is for ambulances and tow trucks.

Previous post on air ambulances.