OSF Life Flight: Delivering Care Quickly & Safely
Media stories in recent months have painted a picture of the medical air ambulance industry as one that’s all about the bottom line – focusing on making money rather than the patient.
The OSF HealthCare Aviation Life Flight program has the opposite approach. As part of a not-for-profit health care system, OSF Life Flight works diligently to provide the highest – and safest - level of care to those who need to be transported quickly. According to Karen Arndt, Community Outreach Coordinator for OSF Life Flight, there are guidelines as to which patients are appropriate for air transport, and the decision to fly a patient starts with the sending physician at a hospital or first responders at the scene of an accident.
OSF Life Flight, the oldest medical air ambulance program in the state of Illinois is also one of the busiest, flying nearly 1,800 flights last year. It charges about 40% less than what other programs in the state charge, negotiating discounts with insurance companies up front.
Arndt understands the concern over costs associated with air ambulance transports. In addition to normal operation costs, there are maintenance costs for the helicopters and other equipment and a higher level of training required for OSF pilots and medical crews – 50% more training than for some other programs.
In the for-profit air ambulance sector, some providers encourage residents in communities they serve to purchase memberships with an annual fee, something OSF never does. Having a membership would have no bearing on whether a patient is transported by OSF Life Flight, either to an OSF facility or another health care system.
Karen Arndt recommends anyone with private insurance check with their insurance company to see what air ambulance charges are covered for their own peace of mind.
Arndt says the OSF Life Flight team knows it is making a positive impact on the communities it serves. It’s something they hear directly from patients who have been flown and later come back to visit the crew and say thanks.