Emergency doctors join push for better EMS helicopter safety

Recommendations include more physician oversight and accreditation for medevac operators.

By Brian Hedger — Posted March 9, 2009

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

The American College of Emergency Physicians is calling for changes to the way medevac helicopter services operate.

Following the National Transportation Safety Board's public hearings on helicopter emergency medical services in February, the college released recommendations to improve safety. Chief among them is adding more physician control in medical decisions that call for EMS helicopters.

"We want the decision to be made by somebody who has a concern for the patient," said ACEP President Nick Jouriles, MD.

The ACEP also called on states to develop EMS protocols and require flight operators to be accredited. Other suggestions include:

  • Training pilots better and giving them more accurate weather updates.
  • Requiring all medical flight dispatchers to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards.
  • Using helicopter terrain awareness warning systems and night-vision technology.
  • Establishing state protocols for patient destination regardless of state lines or the helicopter's institution.

In 2008, there were a record 28 fatalities in seven medevac crashes in the U.S.

The NTSB made four recommendations in 2006 that it hoped would become federal regulations. Among them were installation of terrain awareness warning systems, and use of increased weather-minimum and pilot-rest duty requirements on all medically staffed flights.

The safety board is reviewing data collected at its February public hearings, and may issue new recommendations to the FAA, said NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway.

Meanwhile, the FAA released an updated fact sheet Feb. 2 stating all flights with medical personnel must operate under stricter weather minimums, and that flight crews must determine safe altitude and obstacle clearance before each flight.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn