Thursday, December 5, 2013

10 Things Air Ambulance Providers Wish You Knew

Simply booking a medical flight is the patient's only responsibility, right? There's a little more to it than that. According to air ambulance providers in the U.S., many travelers sabotage their own flights in dubious ways. See what the experts think you should know:

1. Your whole family can't ride with you in the aircraft.

In the best-case scenario, you'll be traveling in a Leer jet. There is typically enough room for one or two guests and a small animal, besides the patient. On the other hand, if you're being transported via helicopter there will only be enough room for you. Pets, while comforting to have, are not always allowed either. Each provider will have special rules in place about the number of guests and should explain this to you upfront.

2. Transportation to/from the airplane can be arranged.

There are generally two types of service providers: emergency-only transport, and patient-centered care. The first will take you from point A to point B and transportation directly to the medical facility is a given. The second type focuses more on patient comfort during the flight and transportation is typically left up to the patient or family to arrange. Most providers have policies dictating whose responsibility it is.

3. The aircraft you choose matters.

Like we saw in the first tip, the size of the aircraft influences the number of passengers that can be safely accommodated. However, the hired aircraft also limits the pilot's abilities. Navigating bad weather, or travelling significant distances are not recommended for smaller aircraft. You'll need to be mindful of this when chartering your flight.

4. It's your responsibility to check for credentials.

It's a big misconception that all medical aircraft have the appropriate credentials (read more about this in tip #8). Air ambulances are typically afforded airport privileges to bypass security checks, but only if the organization has applied for and received the appropriate license. This credentialing process ensures regulations are strictly adhered to and are frequently revoked if providers do not comply. It's never a bad idea to run the certificate number through the FAA's database for accuracy.

5. Insurance coverage should never be assumed.

Most flyers think in terms of personal coverage when the topic of insurance comes and; and most know to check with their policies ahead of time. Medical malpractice insurance held by the provider is generally overlooked. This coverage is not required, nor are companies required to disclose this information to consumers. However, most air ambulances operate just like a mobile hospital so malpractice is a very real concern that warrants coverage.

6. Air ambulance costs are not out of your budget.

There are no shortages of user reviews documenting the outrageous cost of air medical services. Specifically, this is a problem when quotes are not obtained before travel arrangements are secured. Most (but not all!) flight directors can help you create a financial plan that respects your budget.

7. International flights are better when arranged in advance.

The U.S. Department of State can provide you with a list of embassies in other countries. When selecting a provider, it helps to know whether they have experience with international flights. Travel documents will need to be collected and the receiving country will need to know about your arrival.

8. Customer service is always important.

An emerging trend in healthcare is for physicians to use a holistic approach when treating patients. A select number of providers offer services such as gourmet meals, aroma-therapy, and movies during flights.

9. Brokers are not always a good choice.

Medical planes are expensive. Sometimes a provider will lease or rent equipment from brokers to save on expenses. Those expenses get passed along to you.

10. There are risks with flying.

All aircraft owners must document accidents and crash histories. You have a right to review all of them.

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