Helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) continue providing life-saving patient care while adapting to the volatile climate of the pandemic.

In a recent article, Always There, Always Ready, from RotorHub Magazine’s June/July 2020 Issue, Air Methods VP of Flight Operations, Jason Quisling, reflected on his experiences since the pandemic struck. While Quisling noted a decline in the number of scene calls (such as automobile accidents) since the pandemic, he also noted an increase in interfacility transports, including many confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.

Since the start of the pandemic, Air Methods has transported over 1,000 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients. These transports add complexity to a typical transport in that they require challenging coordination and precaution throughout the healthcare system to move patients for treatment. In his career, Jason said he could only compare today’s climate in the emergency air transport space to that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks – though far less complex, as the COVID-19 pandemic is more widespread and evolving.

This rapidly changing landscape has brought forth higher demands for new protocols to ensure safety, while maintaining a high quality of care coordination. Fortunately, the HEMS platforms have evolved in recent years. For instance, Air Methods crews have always carried contact, droplet, and airborne precaution PPE in the aircraft for viral infections, but it was rare that such equipment was ever deployed pre-COVID. Already on-board PPE, increased patient data and access to state-of-the-art equipment are a few protocols Air Methods now has in place that make implementing additional changes due to the pandemic a more fluid process.