Air Methods, the leading air medical service provider, announced today that its LifeStar program in Joliet will carry blood and plasma on its missions to support improved outcomes for patients involved in traumatic injuries or other conditions that require transfusions.
Air Methods has continuously worked to increase the number of aircraft nationwide that carry blood or plasma onboard. This includes LifeStar where carrying blood and plasma on its flights was not feasible until now due to supply limitations.
Carrying blood and plasma during air medical missions can be a significant contributing factor in optimal patient outcomes. For example, patients suffering significant blood loss are at risk for hemorrhagic shock which causes the body’s organs to fail and can lead to death. The administration of thawed plasma during prehospital air medical transport to patients at risk for hemorrhagic shock was deemed safe by medical researchers and resulted in lower 30-day mortality and faster blood clotting than standard-care resuscitation, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study.
“The American healthcare system continues to become more taxed for services as smaller hospitals and health centers close due to financial pressures, which is why emergency air medical services are increasing in necessity,” said Dr. Mark Cichon, medical director for LifeStar. “By carrying blood and plasma on our flights, we are adding another layer of medical care that we can provide to patients who need to be rapidly transported to larger medical centers. We are thrilled that we will now be able to deliver critical blood transfusions when patients need it and that the community surrounding Joliet know that they are in the best hands when they need an emergency air medical transport.”
Leading in Emergency Medical Care and Safety
Adding blood and plasma to LifeStar’s helicopter and the rest of the Air Methods’ non-hospital fleet is only one of several ways the air medical provider continues to enhance safety and enable improved patient outcomes. For example, Air Methods’ clinician leaders have developed a life-saving trauma-care prediction tool that is now established as the gold standard process for airway management and saves lives in prehospital emergency settings. The tool, called the HEAVEN Criteria, was also recently published in the textbook for the world’s leading emergency medicine continuing education (CE) program.
HEAVEN stands for Hypoxemia, Extremes of size, Anatomic abnormalities, Vomit/blood/fluid, Exsanguination, Neck mobility and serves as a quick and easily understood checklist for emergency clinicians to help them predict a complex tracheal intubation, which involves inserting a flexible tube into a throat to open the airway. The criteria has been published in Prehospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS) (9th Edition), a textbook for the CE program from the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians in conjunction with the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons. The textbook is taught in 64 countries and CE credits are earned by EMTs, paramedics, nurses, physician assistants, physicians, and other prehospital providers.
Another reflection of this patient-centered culture is Air Methods’ dedication to technical standards and training, which leads the air medical industry. Air Methods’ registered nurses or paramedic-level trained clinicians are required to have practiced at least three years in an emergency care or intensive care setting. Clinicians must also obtain 100 hours of continuing education every year following Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) standards. In addition, every Air Methods mission is reviewed, in part, to identify training or education opportunities. Approximately 30 cases each month receive an in-depth quality review by clinical quality, education, compliance and risk teams to ensure patient safety and best practices for continued success.
Air Methods is also investing $100 million over 10 years to ensure that the company’s 1,300 pilots are prepared for the most challenging safety scenarios. Pilots fly the world’s largest civilian fleet of helicopters, which are custom designed and supplied to include clot-busting medications for stroke, intra-aortic balloon pump in addition to the drug lines, monitoring devices, transfer vents and other equipment to ensure a safe and effective transfer to hospital. Helicopters are also fully-equipped with safety features such as night vision goggles (NVGs), XM satellite weather and tracking systems, GPS and helicopter terrain awareness and warning systems.
Now with blood and plasma on every needed mission, LifeStar and the rest of the Air Methods’ aircraft are truly serving as intensive care units in the sky.
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