Interfacility helicopter ambulance transport of neurosurgical patients

October 12, 2011

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."

Explore further: Students design record-breaking helicopter (w/ Video)

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

Related Stories

Students design record-breaking helicopter (w/ Video)

August 9, 2011
University of Maryland students flew past a world record after the human-powered helicopter Gamera hovered more than twelve seconds inside the campus' Reckord Armory in early July.

Recommended for you

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

Best of Last Year – The top Medical Xpress articles of 2016

December 23, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—It was a big year for research involving overall health issues, starting with a team led by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health who unearthed more evidence that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.