Getting Patients to the Care They Need

Posted on Thu, Nov 09, 2017

A young child is in dire need of heart surgery thanks to a rare congenital defect. Unfortunately, the only qualified and available surgeon is an ocean away. Without the care that she needs, doctors say that there is little hope for this child.

Though it may seem like the stuff of movies or your favorite hospital show, situations like this come up more often than you may think. In February of 2017, a young Iranian girl named Fatemeh Reshad traveled to the United States for life-saving surgery. The operation to fix her twisted artery was much more likely to succeed under American scalpels, prompting her parents to decide to make the journey.

The Need for Air Ambulances

Although Fatemeh’s case became news because of its connection to hotly debated political happenings, her circumstances are far from unique. In 2014, over 52,000 patients came to the US for medical care from Canada alone.

In order to serve the needs of patients like Fatemeh, air ambulances for international travel are capable of supporting ill or injured patients on their way to the medical help they seek. Complete with mobile medical equipment to keep patients comfortable and room for family members to escort their loved ones, these air ambulances represent a growing trend of patients who don’t see borders as they look for the best care.

One of the most pressing reasons for a patient to travel for medical care is that the very same care is either completely unavailable or relatively unreliable at their current location. This includes patients in need of highly qualified surgeons, such as Fatemeh, but there are other significant reasons why patients might travel.

Burn Centers

Among those reasons is access to specialized equipment. Hospitals and other medical centers often have limited space, so providers have to make choices about what kind of treatment they will accommodate in order to deliver the most effective care. For some places, that choice is to eliminate a burn center in favor of other forms of treatment as Mississippi did in 2006. Burn centers are rare enough that some states don’t have them at all. Burn victims in Delaware, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming are referred to burn centers in nearby states.

However, transporting a burn victim is no simple task. Often, these patients are unable to move on their own and are highly susceptible to contamination by bacteria that healthy skin would ordinarily provide protection from. For these reasons, conventional air travel is simply not an option. Instead, a patient can be kept in stable condition in a safe environment aboard an air ambulance bound for the nearest burn center.

Organ Transplants

Availability of medical equipment is an important factor in regional medical care, but it’s not the only one. When doctors need to perform an organ transplant, they are often limited by the compatible organs on hand. Since organs can only last for so long outside of the body, it’s usually best to transplant them into nearby potential recipients rather than transport them across the country to a patient in need.

For this reason, it’s not uncommon for patients requiring an organ transplant to travel to a city or hospital where they stand a better chance of getting the organ they need. This is where air ambulances come in. Often, the underlying cause of organ failure and the symptoms of the failing organ itself leave a patient in a precarious state. By travelling via an air ambulance that can respond to a patient’s needs, he or she can reach their transplant site safely.

Medical Tourism

Not all international medical treatment takes place in such dire circumstances under such a pressing medical need. Instead, medical tourists will take the time to shop around for the best deal on a particular kind of treatment. Although no one knows how many medical tourists there really are, it’s estimated that thousands of Americans travel for the most affordable care every year.

Faced with prohibitively high healthcare costs in their home states, medical tourists can often find providers abroad that offer the same quality of healthcare at a much lower cost. Take, for example, the case of Michael Shopenn, who saved over $86,000 by looking overseas for surgery.

Medical tourists often turn some of their savings into a recovery vacation, enjoying tacos in Mexico or beaches in Thailand, while they wait until they are fit to travel again. When it’s time to return home, an air ambulance can help alleviate the risk of blood clots faced by those who travel after surgery.

Highly trained surgeons, medical equipment and organs can be difficult to find near one’s home. However, thanks to state of the art air ambulances patients can get the care that they need.


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