Interfacility helicopter ambulance transport of neurosurgical patients

Doctors may be sending too many patients by helicopter, an expensive choice that may not impact patient outcome

When a patient needs to travel between hospitals and time is of the essence, helicopter transport is generally assumed to be faster and more desirable than taking a ground ambulance, but a paper published today in the online journal refutes this common assumption, revealing that the actual times to treatment for patients transported by helicopter may not justify the expense relative to ground ambulances.

The researchers conducted a of all interfacility helicopter transfers of neurosurgical patients to a single in 2008 and determined the actual time to intervention at the receiving hospital.

They then compared these times to an estimated time required for ground transportation between the two facilities. They found that 60% of the 167 transferred patients included in the study were at institutions within an estimated driving time of less than an hour. For these patients, they argue, it is not clear that the helicopter transport was superior to a traditional ambulance.

The authors also point out that 63% of the transferred considered in the study did not need immediate intervention and could have been stabilized at the original hospital before transfer by ground ambulance.

Therefore, given that patient transport by helicopter can cost up to $25,000, while ground transport is estimated to cost much less (between $800 and $2,000), the authors conclude that doctors may want to reevaluate their assumptions about patient helicopter transport.

"In an area of rising and expenditure scrutiny, it is necessary to make evidence-based decisions to optimize patient care in an efficient way," says Dr. Brian Walcott of Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, who led the research. "This study provides preliminary data that brings into question the efficacy of for interfacility hospital transfer – a practice that is costly and has been increasingly utilized."

More information: Walcott BP, Coumans J-V, Mian MK, Nahed BV, Kahle KT (2011) Interfacility Helicopter Ambulance Transport of Neurosurgical Patients: Observations, Utilization, and Outcomes from a Quaternary Level Care Hospital. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26216. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026216

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Langley's bell UH-1H huey helicopter returns

Sep 01, 2011

NASA Langley's Bell UH-1H Huey helicopter returned to the Center Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, after a five-year long stint supporting space shuttle operations at Kennedy Space Center. The KSC work added another ...

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

5 hours ago

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

Italy scraps ban on donor-assisted reproduction

Apr 09, 2014

Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down a Catholic Church-backed ban against assisted reproduction with sperm or egg donors that has forced thousands of sterile couples to seek help abroad.

User comments