Medical Copter Transport Not Always Needed

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BOSTON, Oct. 14 (UPI) — U.S. physicians may order helicopter transport, which costs $25,000 per trip, for too many patients traveling short distances, researchers say.

Study leader Dr. Brian Walcott of Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues, compared the actual helicopter time to transport a patient from a hospital to a trauma center and estimated time required for ground transportation between the facilities.

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, found under 60 percent of the 167 transferred patients arrived at the institution within an estimated driving time of less than 1 hour.

Walcott and the research team said for those patients, it is not clear helicopter transport was superior to a traditional ambulance because 63 percent of the transferred patients did not need immediate intervention.

The patients could have been stabilized at the original hospital before transfer by ground ambulance, Walcott said.

Given the cost of helicopter transport, compared with ground transport costs of about $800 to $2,000 per trip, the study authors conclude doctors may want to reconsider their assumptions about patient helicopter transport, Walcott said.

“In an era of rising healthcare costs and expenditure scrutiny, it is necessary to make evidence-based decisions to optimize patient care in an efficient way,” Walcott said in a statement.

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