In light of surging air medical demand, Dr. Bryan Bledsoe joins us for a discussion on whether HEMS is actually beneficial — and, if so, under what set of circumstances. As informed providers, we owe a duty to our patients not to unnecessarily straddle them with crippling debt and higher risk mode of transport if there is no justifiable benefit.
What benefit does rotor wing air medical have?
- Speed: For transport distances of over 45 – 60 miles, HEMS is typically faster than ground transport. But this is only beneficial in patients who have a time sensitive emergency — STEMI, CVA within window, Penetrating Trauma, Severely Injured Trauma Patients.
- Advanced Medical Care: When patients need a higher level of care and treatment than is available on by ground EMS — ventilators, RSI, fibrinolytics, antibiotics, additional medications.
- Difficult to reach patients: HEMS is beneficial in extracting patients from difficult areas to reach or traverse by ground providers — gorges, large parks, isolated locations, natural disasters, inaccessibility due to construction or traffic.
In this podcast, Dr. Bledsoe also tackles several myths associated with HEMS usage, including:
- HEMS is always faster the ground EMS.
- Time saved going by HEMS always benefits patient care.
- If we don’t support HEMS with business when we don’t need them, they won’t be around when we do need them.
- Critical care or advanced paramedic care is only available on HEMS.
- We should send patients who don’t need it by HEMS to save rural resources.
- HEMS transports are always smoother and more gentle than ground.
I have been accused by some, over the years, of being “anti-HEMS”. That is not the case. As a certified Flight Paramedic with friends working for various flight services, I fully support air medical and view it as an invaluable resource in times of need. I am against excessive overutilization that saddles patients with unnecessary bills and exposes our peers to additional and needless risk.
- Guest material by Dr. Bryan Bledsoe.
- Bledsoe, B. E., Wesley, A. K., Eckstein, M., Dunn, T. M., & O’Keefe, M. F. (2006). Helicopter scene transport of trauma patients with nonlife-threatening injuries: a meta-analysis. The Journal of trauma, 6, 1257-65; discussion 1265-6.
- Diaz, M. A., Hendey, G. W., & Bivins, H. G. (2005). When is the helicopter faster? A comparison of helicopter and ground ambulance transport times. The Journal of trauma, 1, 148–153.
- Murphy, B. (2008, June 15). Crash rate raises med copter safety fears. Retrieved May 29, 2016
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