by Roelle Downer
With an increasing need and want for Medical Health Insurance, coverage for Air Ambulance Services has become a standard benefit under most health plans.
An Air Ambulance is an aircraft, which is equipped with life-support and/or surgical equipment, and staffed with medical personnel to provide care during flight to patients being transported to a medical facility. Air ambulances are used in emergencies, but may also be used in other circumstances when ground transport would be difficult.
Most Air Ambulance Service providers offer transport services for the relocation of patients requiring specialized medical procedures such as organ transplants, cancer treatment, specialized cardiac surgery, burn care, stroke care, advanced head and spinal cord injury and rehabilitation.
Initially, the patient’s physician, hospital advocate or in some cases the insurance provider will contact the Air Ambulance operations center where a flight coordinator will assist in determining medical needs and provide an estimate on the transfer. The flight coordinator will also schedule ground transportation and manage communication between facilities, doctors, case managers, admission personnel, airport terminals, ambulances and families. It is important to note that only the patient’s physician can recommend and authorize Air Ambulance transportation, as stabilization of the patient has to occur before any sort of travel by air can be allowed.
When a trip is scheduled, the Air Ambulance service provider will request the following information:
Places of departure and destination
Sending and receiving doctor information
Date and time of travel
Method of payment
Before departure, the patient’s escort or traveling family member must ensure that all necessary travel documents are at hand for the customary document-check by immigration officials at the destination. These documents include, valid passports and visas, if applicable. Because immigration officials may be unable to communicate directly with the patient for verification etc., most embassies have put special facilities in place for Air Ambulance travel into that country.
Most services allow an escort or a family member to travel with the patient however the number of passengers is based on the aircraft chosen, the patient’s health and the length of the flight. In some cases no accompanying family member is allowed due to the severity of the illness/injury, space constraints with medical equipment or medical procedure to be performed in flight. Consequently luggage also is limited on medical flights and family members may have to travel on a commercial airline to be with the patient.