I was out shoveling snow last winter and I heard a thundering sound that I have never experienced before in the winter time…a massive helicopter flying low and fast right over the top of my roof and tree line heading into the St. Cloud area in Central Minnesota.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Blackhawks, Chinooks and Apaches fly overhead on training runs from the Camp Ripley National Guard facility as they have been getting ready to deploy…but not in the winter time. And this red and white helicopter had the LifeLink III insignia on it. Then this past year, I have heard and seen several of the low-flying thunder makers transporting patients from Wilmar to St. Cloud or Duluth as part of the new LifeLink program that is reaching rural areas during bad accidents or life-threatening situations. And when I met with the folks at LifeLink, they told me about their really cool helicopters and the gear they have on board. I was impressed with what I saw…I hope they can get a few to a hospital near you
Get on an airplane run by a major airline today and although they will no longer provide you with a meal, they will provide you with WiFi that will allow you to utilize your connected devices to catch up on work, access important files, and even do a cloud based video-teleconference if you so choose. The airplane uses a satellite based system to assure its passengers can stay connected and efficiently and productively use their in-air time. It’s a welcome luxury and convenience for most, and a better use of time than reading the SkyMall catalog for the 18th time.
Drive up on a major auto accident with critical injuries, and many times you’ll see an emergency helicopter land to facilitate transport to the nearest ER or trauma center. These airships are equipped as you would expect a first response transport to be. Heart monitors, blood pressure and blood oxygen monitors, IVs, defibrillators etc adorn the walls and fill the compartments, creating essentially a “flying ICU.” Planes are also outfitted in this manner for patient transport, to assure all the essential equipment is in place to transfer patients from facility to facility. Now these aircraft have been around for some time, and have always been able to communicate with their destinations via radio communications. However, with the advent of in-flight WiFi capabilities like the ones mentioned in commercial aircraft above, being able to connect to the internet goes beyond being a luxury and instead becomes a huge opportunity to increase the quality of care during critical transport.
WiFi can enable flying ICUs to access a patient’s important electronic health records (EHRs) to assess potential allergies, health history, or other factors that may best determine the care provided and increase the odds of success of administering potentially life-saving care. It can also provide the opportunity for a doctor at the receiving facility to video conference with the medics and EMTs on board to prepare properly for the patient’s arrival or to remotely assess the patient and provide additional in transit care instructions.
Now if you are envisioning transport within a major metropolitan area, you may be thinking that the patient will arrive within minutes anyway, so there may not even be enough time to isolate an ER physician and initiate a call of this type. However, think of rural areas where the facilities may be quite a distance from the actual incident.
According to Mark Monte, M.D., chief of trauma surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, MN, “There’s some debate as to the value of having a helicopter system in New York City or Detroit or Chicago. But we cover a large expanse of open territory. So to have a helicopter which can go out and reach a great distance and bring a patient back is a great advantage.” Based on this, Minneapolis based Life Link III services 9 hospitals from six helicopter bases located in small Minnesota communities.
As you can imagine, having remote, in-flight access to EHRs and ER physicians is also exponentially important in these situations as well.
So if your facility already has a comprehensive telemedicine system and strategy in place, you are ready to interface not only with patients at home but also with those in the air. If you have been slow to embrace telemedicine in efforts to provide greater physician access or as a strategy to reduce re-admissions, perhaps these new developments may inspire you to take the plunge, at least in the ER where the extra few minutes a physician has to assess and prepare for the arrival of a patient in critical condition, may just save lives.
Avidex AV is revolutionizing the way healthcare facilities and doctors are delivering care. Their 20 years of experience is being leveraged to drive down the cost of care while promoting positive healthcare outcomes. Is your organization looking for a new kind of technology partner? Connect with one of our Account Executives today to learn more.
About Bob Higginbotham
Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org