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The Top 5 Trends Facing the Air Medical Industry in 2022

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The future of healthcare and its impact on air medical services is facing sweeping changes and acute challenges. From hospital closures and staffing shortages to increased domestic tourism, Air Methods is evaluating market dynamics and preparing for this shift. Here are our top 5 trends facing the air medical industry in 2022. 

1. Obstetrical Units Closing Across the U.S.


In the past year, dozens of rural community hospitals across the country reached out to our Air Methods bases to see if we could help bridge the gap between their emergency departments and OB units. The distance between obstetrics services in rural communities is often between 30 to 90 minutes away. More than 100 OB units have closed in the last several years and this trend indicates the need to fill the gap in obstetrics care in rural areas

“With OB units closing in many hospitals across the country, we recognize the need to provide transport of high-risk OB patients to facilities that have high-risk OB capabilities,” said Cheri Kommor, Vice President of Clinical Services. “Our critical care flight clinicians are highly trained and experienced in the care of high-risk OB patients and can provide a safe and rapid mode of transport for this time-sensitive patient population.” 

How can we help?

  • Dispatch aircraft early with our early notification activation policy. 
  • Customize OB transport information handouts to specific geographical locations.
  • Host drills within rural emergency departments with high-risk obstetric patients. These drills can include practicing hand-offs, assessments, transfers, and more. 


2.  Hospital Staff Shortages 

One big obstacle faced by healthcare systems is the lack of hospital staff, namely nurses and specialized physicians. In the last few months, we’ve heard from hospitals and health system partners that they are facing staffing shortages at every level. Our hospital partners have reached out to Air Methods bases requesting help since their staffing shortages have decreased bed availability and reduced flexibility of hospitals able to send nurses with ground EMS teams in critical care transport situations. 

According to Kommor, “Each of our aircraft nationwide are staffed with a critical care nurse and a critical care paramedic who can safely transport the majority of patient populations without needing to utilize a staff member from your facility, recognizing that hospitals need every staff member possible while we all work through these staffing shortages.”

How can we help?

  • Dispatch aircraft early with our early notification activation policy.
  • Host drills within rural emergency departments and ICUs. 


3.  Ground EMS Struggles 

Hospitals aren’t the only system facing staffing shortages. Throughout the country, ground EMS agencies, both paid and volunteer, are suffering from staffing shortages of EMTs and paramedics. At the same time, they are also facing financial struggles. There were not enough EMTs and paramedics before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and many people left the profession for retirement, increased salary, and emotional and physical burnout. Ground EMS agencies are facing rising costs of fuel, ambulance purchases, wages, and benefits. 

“We recognize that our EMS systems were fragile before the pandemic and are now seeing agencies not having enough providers to staff an ambulance, seeing annual budgets run dry, and ETAs to 911 and interfacility transfers being prolonged by not enough units available per day,” said Aidan O’Connor, Regional Director of Sales for the Northeast.  

How can we help?

  • Meet with EMS and hospital leadership to ensure they have established early activation policies. 
  • Air medical teams can help with bringing critical care to the patient in an expedited manner and can also help ground EMS systems return to much faster service than if they were to complete the transport by ground. Quicker turnaround times for ground EMS means more units back in service to help others. 
  • Hospitals facing prolonged and delayed ETAs can utilize air medical services when those delays could create poor outcomes or further bed management crises within their facilities. 


4.  Increased Pediatrics Cases 

Children’s hospitals around the country are reporting high pediatric censuses for both illness and trauma. 

“We are seeing a higher-than-normal pediatric patient population and have heard loud and clear from our partners in healthcare that these are low volume, high acuity cases that require the highest level of skill, knowledge, and clinical equipment to treat,” said O’Connor. 

How can we help?

  • Ensure hospital staff and ground EMS providers are aware of our SimX training programs with high fidelity simulators, cadaver labs, and skill workshops. 
  • Ensure hospital staff and ground EMS providers are aware of our advanced clinical equipment for pediatric patients, including Hamilton ventilators and temperature monitors. 


5.  Increased Domestic Travel and Tourism 

Since the pandemic, we have seen sporadic movement and travel with numerous factors, including but not limited to: COVID-19 cases, internal restrictions, inflation of fuel prices, and inflation of airplane travel. We anticipate that the summer of 2022 will include a lot of domestic travel, meaning that people will travel within the U.S. and into rural America where families can enjoy camping, swimming, hiking, and visiting peaceful areas. 

“Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire,” said Lloyd Albert, Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Northeast in the AAA Today magazine.  

How can we help?

  • Share tourism and travel predictions with local 911 and Public-Safety Answering Point (PSAP) centers, local hospitals, and local EMS agencies. 
  • Share tourism and travel predictions with our flight crews so they are aware of the increased need for incredible services within the communities they serve. 
  • Ensure the local emergency management and first responders consider air medical for mass casualty events and build out their disaster event response plans.