In the event of a serious emergency that requires more (and more immediate) assistance than can be provided by a traditional ambulance, you may elect to call an air ambulance. These business-class aircraft are outfitted with everything necessary to safely and quickly transport even intensive-care patients from one location to another with minimum stress and danger. However, before you call for an air ambulance, which is usually a private service, make sure you understand the monetary ramifications of doing so--particularly if you are not in an emergency situation.
Air ambulances can access areas that traditional ambulances cannot. They are also much faster when it comes to transporting patients, which can be crucial if a patient needs specialty treatment from a hospital that is not in the immediate vicinity. Air ambulances have trained medical staff on board who communicate directly with a patient's personal physician(s) to ensure the maximum health and safety of the passenger. However, all of this private expertise comes with a fee, and the base cost of the ambulance can jump dramatically with each additional team member.
Air ambulances are intended to serve two purposes: emergency transport and speedy transport. If you or a loved one are in a serious accident--particularly if that accident occurs away from a roadway--you may be taken to the hospital by air ambulance, rather than risking traveling over the ground on a stretcher to reach a motorized ambulance or other medical vehicle. However, air ambulances are also popular when intensive-care patients who may not be particularly stable must be moved, as this method requires them to spend the least amount of time out of the ICU.
Private air ambulances fly everywhere. Most air-ambulance services will go just about anyplace but Antarctica. They will also usually take almost any method of payment, since they understand that this type of transportation is generally not something that is easy to plan for ahead of time. Air ambulances typically have room for a fair amount of additional medical equipment, but equipment that is not part of the service will usually cost extra.
If you elect to use an air ambulance or you are compelled to use one in an emergency, you will be charged based on the individual services rendered. Generally, flight times are predictable, with the price of a Florida-to-New-York trip ranging from $3,500 to $9,000, and one from California to Virginia ranging from $4,500 to $18,000. These base prices are largely determined by what type of aircraft you select and what the air ambulance company has available. The medical staff's degree of specialty will determine additional charges, with trained emergency nurses being the least expensive and specialty physicians and trauma surgeons the most expensive. These prices, and those of medications that may be administered, are far too specialized to give a representative average; you should get a quote directly from the company, if possible.
Many people think that air ambulances are simply a faster method of transportation in an emergency. However, air ambulances also provide "bedside-to-bedside" services for invalids and highly customized care for people who are in critical condition yet must make a trip for any reason. Many private air-ambulance services can provide all the comforts of a private jet or airplane cabin, along with trained medical personnel to make sure the trip goes smoothly for all parties.
Always work with your doctor whenever possible if you are in poor health and considering making a trip. While an air ambulance may seem like the perfect way to deal with your unstable condition while still allowing you to travel, nothing can replace the care you get from a doctor who knows you and is familiar with your condition. Never arrange any type of medical transport without keeping all of your attending physicians in the loop, as well.