Medical dispatch referers to specific communication and protocols used to provide lifesaving services and care to patients. A dispatcher, is anyone who coordinates medical efforts before, during, and after a patient reaches their final destination. Under different circumstances, public and state-funded employees are enrolled to ensure these systems are available at all times. Air ambulance medical dispatch differs from traditional emergency medical dispatching (EMD) in that private chartered jet providers are also involved in the process. In this article, we'll review guidelines for private air ambulance medical dispatch.
Dispatchers, much like traditional telephone operators, utilize a series of decision trees based on information provided to them by the patient or an authorized case worker. After the dispatcher receives pertinent information about the patient's medical condition and priority status, they can begin activating strategic protocols for what needs to happen during each phase of the process:
- before the air ambulance arrives
- during air transport
- after the patient arrives on site
Phase 1: Pre-flight
Well before the air ambulance arrives on site, the dispatcher must begin planning. Phase one is all about what needs to happen before the air ambulance arrives. In this phase, the dispatcher will make sure the patient is not currently under duress. If they are, the dispatcher will provide instructions over the phone to quickly de-escalate the situation. The more commonly used verbal commands are likely to include:
- cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- evacuation plans
- specific safety precautions (such as securing the patient's head, neck, or spine)
In addition, it is the dispatcher's job to communicate important trip details with the patient and or care giver. These details are likely to include things like the estimated time of arrival (ETA), connecting hospitals, etc.
Phase 2: In-flight
During the next phase, the dispatcher begins focusing on what needs to happen during air transport. Choosing the right kind of transportation is obviously one of the more critical decisions a dispatcher will make. However, during this phase the dispatcher must also:
- request flight services from air traffic control
- coordinate with the receiving hospital
- notify medical support staff on the ground of changes to the patient's condition
Phase 3: Post-flight
The last and final phase of air ambulance medical dispatch guarantees what should happen after the patient arrives on site. Usually, ground transportation is required to move the patient from the aircraft to the receiving facilities. However, the dispatcher's job does not end here. Other things that must be completed once the patient lands often include:
- requesting permission for the use of sirens and / or emergency lights
- providing briefs (short summaries of patient status) to nurses, paramedics, or doctors
- relaying instructions to care givers or family members for how to reunite with the patient
While air ambulance medical dispatch differences from traditional EMD in that private chartered jet providers are also involved, many of the same guidelines are found in each discipline. It's arguable that the medical attention provided before, during, and after a patient reaches their final destination would not be possible without the skill and expertise of these highly trained individuals.