Identifying And Reducing Risks During Air Medical Transport

Reducing Risks During Air Medical Transport

Air Medical Transport is an inherently risky business.  Since the early 70's, hundreds of providers and patients have been killed or injured during transport. However, despite the efforts of many agencies including the Air and Surface Transport Nurse Association, NTSB, FAA, Air Medical Physicians Association, CDC, and the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems, the number of accidents each year continue to rise.

As providers of Critical Care In The Air, we must take responsibility for understanding the risks we're exposed to every time we climb into that aircraft, and how to mitigate those risks and give us the best chance of returning home to our families.

Part 1 - Discuss some of the primary risk associate with air and ground transport, and some methods to minimize those risks.

  • Since its inception, two factors have been identified as contributors in the majority of air medical transport accidents: adverse weather factors and night operations. The common factor between both of these is poor visibility. Strategies to reduce the risks associated with air medical transport are constantly evolving and currently focus on reducing the Human Factor associated with all accidents. These strategies including improving the flow of information among all crew members using the concept of AMRM, or Air Medical Resource Management, which promotes engagement from all crew members in the decision making process about the safety of a mission. Further strategies have focused providing crews adequate information to aid in the decision making process. The use of technology for identifying local area weather patterns such as the HEMS Tool have been designed to provide pilots and crew better information on local weather patterns at lower altitudes. Other forms of technology include the adoption of Night Vision Goggles, Terrain Awareness Warning Systems and Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems, Satellite Tracking, and improved aircraft design to improve the survivability of a crash.
  • In the case of ground transports, the major factors contributing to accidents are emergency operations (lights and siren operations) and intersection operations (transiting through intersections during emergency operations). Ambulance designs have also played a significant role in crew member injury and death. Improvements in restraint systems to allow paramedics to provide care while remaining secured, improved patient compartment construction, driver cameras, and improved driver training are all aimed at reducing collisions and injuries.

Part 2 - Describe The Medical Transport Industry’s Safety Initiatives To Improve Safety And Reduce Accident Rates.

  • “Vision Zero” is the Association of Air Medical Service initiative to reduce injury’s in the air medical transport environment by 80% by 2015 through multiagency cooperation and regulatory changes to identify, and address, the leading causes of injuries in the HEMS community.

Sean Eaton

ProMedic Project LLC, 608 Hoyt Lane, Lafayette, CO, 80026