Air medical transport refers to the use of a helicopter or plane to transport an ill or injured patient to the appropriate medical facility. There are various levels for moving patients, including basic life support, advanced life support, and critical transport. The availability of medical transport by air will often be determined by the weather or proximity of the patient to the medical facility.
The basic life support air ambulance provides care to the patient with less extreme injuries or illness. In most cases, the patient will not need life saving intervention, but will need monitoring and continued care until the medical facility is reached. The basic life support air medical transport can be considered non-emergency medical transportation.
The advanced life support air ambulance provides the same care as basic life support but with the addition of advanced care directives. These directives can include the ability to establish and maintain an airway, drug administration, and cardiac care. The crew of the advanced life support transport can be considered an emergency medical transportation team.
Critical transport is often reserved for the patient with the most extreme medical needs. The crew aboard this emergency medical transport will often include a physician in addition to a nurse or paramedic. The critical transport team is often on-call for emergencies with a local hospital or paid medical alert system.
While the majority of air transportation for medical reasons is done via helicopter, there are some cases where a plane will be contracted to make the move. This could occur is the new facility is too far from the old facility to reach by helicopter or if the facility is out of the country. Both private and public air medical transport is available by plane.
In order to qualify for the non-emergency medical transportation, the patient may have to meet certain criteria. The patient should be medically stable and able to move without significant medical care. The patient should also be able to move via a gurney or a wheelchair without the use of advanced medical equipment in the air. Staff onboard a non-emergency flight is often limited to one nurse, paramedic or EMT.
Emergency air medical transport is often reserved for patients being moved without prior notice. For example, the patient who is severely injured in car accident may not be stable enough to be moved by non-emergency medical transportation. Emergency air medical transport tends to cost more than non-emergency medical transportation.