Access to healthcare is critical in many rural communities, home to 46 million people, or 14% of the US population, in 2021. Unfortunately, distance and isolation can make it difficult to access medical services, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment and poor health outcomes. Fortunately, nonemergency medical air transportation ensures that rural communities can access specialized medical care, which can be the difference between life and death.
Nonemergency medical air transportation, also known as medical air transport, uses aircraft to transport patients who require medical attention or specialty care but are not in a life-threatening situation. Fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft can provide medical air transport, depending on the patient’s condition and the distance to be covered.
It’s typically used for patients requiring specialized medical care, like cancer treatment or organ transplants, and those with rare or complex medical conditions requiring care only available in urban medical facilities.
Advantages of Nonemergency Medical Air Transportation
One of the most significant advantages of nonemergency medical air transportation is that it enables patients in rural areas to access specialized medical care that would otherwise be unavailable. In addition, it provides a fast and reliable means of transport for patients in rural areas who have to travel long distances to reach specialized medical facilities, which can be particularly challenging for patients with chronic conditions that require ongoing care.
Another benefit of nonemergency medical air transportation is that it can significantly reduce the travel time for patients who need medical attention. The nearest hospital or medical facility may be located hours away by car for individuals living in rural areas. However, patients can quickly and safely reach the nearest medical facility using nonemergency medical air transportation to receive the medical attention they need.
Nonemergency medical air transportation can also improve the quality of care for patients in rural areas. According to the National Rural Health Association, patients in rural areas often experience higher rates of chronic disease and are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions. Nonemergency medical air transportation can ensure that patients receive the care they need in a timely and efficient manner, reducing the risk of complications and improving health outcomes.
Types of Nonemergency Medical Air Transportation
There are several types of nonemergency medical air transportation, including helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and air ambulances. The type of transportation used will depend on the patient’s specific needs and the distance and terrain of the journey.
For example, helicopters are often used for shorter distances and for patients who require rapid transportation, while fixed-wing aircraft are better suited for longer distances and for patients who require more advanced medical care during transport.
The Cost Factor
Nonemergency medical air transportation has its challenges, however. One of the main challenges is the cost of transportation. Nonemergency medical air transportation can be expensive, and many rural patients may not have access to the financial resources necessary to pay for these services.
Air transportation can be out of reach for many Americans living on a fixed income. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, “It’s estimated that the median cost of air ambulance services is between $36,000 and $40,000.” The cost to charter a private plane for non-emergency transportation can cost between $2,400 and $12,500 per flight hour, depending on the aircraft type, according to Air Charter Services USA.
For people who experience barriers to access to medical care, free air transportation is available through nonprofit volunteer pilot organizations like LifeLine Pilots. In addition, LifeLine Pilots partners with similar organizations for passengers flying outside of its region. Volunteer pilots can fly passengers anywhere from 100 to 1,000 miles. There is no limit to the number of times a passenger can fly and there is never a cost.
Help Us Ensure Rural Communities Can Access Medical Care
Nonemergency medical air transportation is an essential service that can significantly improve rural access to healthcare. By reducing travel time, bridging the gap in healthcare services, and providing timely medical care, nonemergency medical air transportation can help to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare disparities in rural areas.
The generosity of hundreds of volunteer pilots, who donate their time and 100% of flight expenses, making the service possible within ten states in the Midwest. Each pilot volunteer is an FAA-certified pilot and adheres to the aviation industry’s high safety standards. LifeLine Pilots has a 100% safety record and has operated since 1981.
To learn more about what it is like to fly with LifeLine Pilots, view passenger informational videos.
The organization was founded on the principle that everyone, regardless of income or location, should have equal access to quality healthcare. LifeLine Pilots receives no government funding. Instead, volunteer pilots support LifeLine Pilots by donating millions of flight time and planes ($1.9 million last year alone!).
LifeLine Pilots can make these flights available to people in need through the generosity of individuals, businesses, and foundations. There are so many ways you can help. Your cash or crypto contribution, or volunteering, can ensure a person gets the healthcare they need.