Medical evacuation procedures: organizing a rapid patient transfer

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At Medical Air Service, we make it a point to dispatch the majority of our medical evacuation flights as soon as possible. Even if a patient has been cleared to travel by their treating physician, we believe it is critical to inquire about their medical condition or the treatment they are receiving, especially to ensure that the appropriate medical equipment and ground ambulance that will transport them to the air ambulance/scheduled airliner is available. For this purpose, we may typically request the patient's medical information. Let us dispel any concerns you may have about our medical evacuation procedures, which were designed specifically to ensure a smooth and rapid long-distance patient transfer.

The key points to remember about our medical evacuation procedures:

  • A medical evacuation is the transfer of a patient to a more advanced healthcare facility, which is frequently located in another country. It can also be arranged for patients who wish to relocate in order to be closer to relatives.
  • A ground ambulance, in addition to an ambulance jet, may be required to ensure that the patient is transported safely and comfortably. If you choose our bed-to-bed service, we will handle the entire medical flight process, including transfers between healthcare facilities and airports via sophisticated and fully equipped ground ambulances.
  • Our medical evacuation procedures are simple: contact us, share the patient's medical information, and have the necessary travel documents ready.

Understanding medical evacuation flights

Have you ever wondered what the terms medevac or medivac meant? Both are abbreviations for medical evacuation. A medical evacuation is the transfer of a patient to a better-equipped healthcare facility, which is often located in another country. It can also be arranged for patients who want to relocate to be closer to relatives who have moved abroad or to benefit from medical tourism

While ground ambulances can be used for medical evacuation missions, particularly over short distances, an ambulance jet is usually the better option. Because they are not hindered by obstacles on the ground, our fixed-winged medical flights can be relied on to transport the sick and/or injured quickly and efficiently. Our medevac patients are accompanied by capable flight medics to ensure that everything runs smoothly. They are experts in medical evacuation transportation operations and ensure the safety of patients throughout the transfer process.

air ambulance flight

Did you know that? To ensure that the patient is transported safely and comfortably, both a ground and an air ambulance may be required. This is included in our bed-to-bed service. You can be confident that we will handle the entire medical flight process, including transfers between healthcare facilities and airports via sophisticated and fully equipped ground ambulances if you choose it.

What are the steps to organize a medical evacuation?

As we have seen, organizing an international or long-distance medical evacuation flight requires a great deal of planning. Our multidisciplinary teams have established straightforward medical evacuation procedures to ensure that our patients have the safest and most comfortable journey possible, as well as a smooth and rapid patient transfer. These are broken down into three distinct steps:

  • Contact us;
  • Share your medical information;
  • Have the relevant travel documents ready.

Step 1: Contact us

Contacting us is the first step in booking a medical evacuation flight. You can reach us by phone, e-mail, or by completing our contact form. Our representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will gladly call you back at no cost to discuss your long-distance medevac transfer and determine your needs. They will also provide you with a free, nonbinding quote. Of course, you will be given ample time to consider and respond to our offer. We will provide you with a final written quotation once all flight plans have been completed. We may require some important information for this, as detailed in the two steps below.

Step 2: Share the patient’s medical information

The medical evacuation of a patient is contingent on their medical condition. This is why we are constantly on the lookout for a satisfactory solution that prioritizes their health, safety, and comfort. To accomplish this, regardless of whether the medical evacuation is scheduled on a scheduled airliner or an ambulance jet, we may request a fit-to-fly assessment ahead of time. If they have a minor injury or are in a non-urgent situation, we can arrange a medevac flight using the information provided by family members.

Indeed, air travel has definite physiological effects. This can be as simple as a harmless 'popping' in the ears during take-off and landing in healthy passengers. However, the risks are higher in passengers who have serious injuries or illnesses, as well as in the final few weeks of pregnancy. To rule out such possibilities, our medical evacuation unit, composed of multilingual experts who collaborate closely with a global network of correspondents, assesses the patient's medical situation. Contacting the attending physician or consulting their medical documentation, such as discharge notes outlining the patient's current state of health, may be part of this.

It should be noted that even if the patient's treating physician has declared them fit to travel, the commercial airline always has the final authority on a scheduled flight. If the patient is being evacuated in an ambulance jet, the accompanying flight doctor has the final say on whether or not the patient is fit to fly. Indeed, as medical flight specialists with years of experience and the responsibility for the patient's care throughout the flight, they are uniquely qualified to assess a patient's fitness to fly.

Following an assessment of the situation, a decision is made regarding the potential organization and methods of an evacuation, taking into account the patient's condition as well as the best balance of time, efficiency, and in-flight care. In terms of the in-flight care we provide to our medevac patients, their medical information allows us to determine a number of factors critical to ensuring a safe medical transfer, such as:

  • whether a ground ambulance is required to reach the air ambulance/commercial airliner;
  • what type of air ambulance is best suited to their condition, but also the distance to be traveled. It could be a medical helicopter for shorter distances or an ambulance jet for international medical evacuations; 
  • the medical equipment needed on board and the medical crew assigned to the patient.

Extending on the previous two points, some patients with acute medical conditions, such as pneumothorax, severe pneumonia or anemia, are more vulnerable to health risks at high altitudes. Their medical information helps us in ensuring high standards of medical care, namely by providing extra oxygen or complex ventilation, or organizing a flight under sea-level conditions to reduce differences in cabin pressure. It also enables us to provide an isolation shell for critically ill Covid-19 patients or a pediatric incubator for infants. Similarly, this allows us to assign the appropriate specialist medical crew to care for the patient during their trip- a neonatologist for babies, an obstetrician for pregnant women, or an intensive care specialist ensures that the patient is expertly cared for. 

Did you know that? The patient’s medical records are not systematically required. So, please do not wait until you have received the patient's discharge notes or a letter from their doctor. Contact us as soon as possible so that we can arrange a quick air ambulance flight for your loved ones. We can always reassess the patient or communicate directly with doctors at the local hospital, saving time and getting the patient back on their way as soon as possible.

medical documentation

Laboratory test results, doctor's letters, and patient files or medical information are all examples of documentation helpful to successfully organize a medical evacuation flight. If none of these are available, we will gladly provide you with a form on which to fill out information about the patient's condition and medication.

Step 3: Have the relevant travel documents ready

Whether you are traveling within or outside your home country, you will need proper identification papers. Bring your ID card, your passport, and, if necessary, a travel visa. In case you didn't know, we can assist you in applying for (emergency) visas to ease the administrative procedures you may be unfamiliar with. Also, because the coronavirus pandemic has transformed both domestic and international travel, depending on your destination country, you may be required to bring your Covid-19 travel documents, such as a Covid viral test.

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