Boston MedFlight teams with hospitals to save lives

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BOSTON – The crew of Boston MedFlight, a fleet of helicopters, airplanes, and ambulances, leaves no one behind. Taking exceptional care of all patients, irrespective of one’s ability to pay, is standard practice for the exceptional staff working at this non-profit charity with bases in Lawrence, Bedford, and Plymouth. Boston MedFlight realizes every patient is someone’s parent, child, relative or friend.

“Boston MedFlight is an integral part of a success story that reliably delivers robust medical care to patients en-route between small community medical centers and any one of Boston’s six comprehensive teaching hospitals,” said Dr. Serguei Roumiantsev, of Massachusetts General Hospital’s New-Born Intensive Care Unit. “MGH’s team, like Boston MedFlight members, pride themselves on being on the forefront of an excellent medical care delivery system that works with hope and heart for all their patients and families.”

While explaining the multi-dimensional communication center at Boston MedFlight’s Bedford, Massachusetts base, Chief Operating Officer Andrew Farkas says his team administers medical support 24/7 to the sickest of the sick from around New England and beyond. Aboard critical-care ground ambulances, King Air B200 fixed-wing airplanes, Airbus EC-145s or Sikorsky S-76 C++ rotor-wing helicopters, patients in need of highly specialized care are compassionately, efficiently, and, most importantly, safely transported to the hospital best-suited to address their defined emergency medical requirements. Farkas said the ambulance company, founded 30 years ago with the motto “Your life, Our Mission,” safely transported its 60,000th patient into Boston late last month.

(Courtesy of Boston MedFlight)

(Courtesy of Boston MedFlight)

Boston MedFlight adroitly fuses a juxtaposition of strict Air Force protocols with sophisticated ever-evolving medical practices at its headquarters situated within the metropolis of Hanscom Air Force Base. Past a Spartan barbed-wire guard post manned by camouflage-wearing Airmen, at the end of a series of long roads, beside an active runway, and adjacent to an aircraft hanger, is their nondescript office building. Inside the building is a well-appointed multimedia conference room designed to enable face-to-face discussions between world-class leaders in enhanced patient care while in flight, on the ground or in a hospital.

Monthly round-table meetings and daily phone conversations with medical and administrative representatives from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts Medical Center are organized by Boston MedFlight staffers to identify and articulate goals.

To avoid redundancy and make best use of each facility’s personnel strengths and capacities, Roumiantsev said “constant collaborative review of protocol helps reduce the risks and uncertainties in situations already filled with uncertainty.” The NICU doctor feels effective plans have been developed by the consortium, directing patients to the best hospital for their needs. Using his experience for example, premature babies requiring advanced surgeries are directed to MGH’s Level Four NICU service, while babies needing highly complex neurological care are deployed to the complimentary Level Four staff of BWH’s NICU. Boston MedFlight, always in the conversational loop, choreographs and staffs travel plans for all patients, constantly updating the involved care providers as necessary.

This unique collaboration of professional agencies represents a cooperative commitment to provide seamless personalized care to patients and families in crisis. Hospitals, doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators and the Boston MedFlight crew review and discuss a patient’s needs and modifications of treatment plans, in addition to updating a patient’s status. Together, medical staffs and pilots underscore the shared mission of “safety first” with each patient transfer.

Farkas said all six consortium hospitals fund major purchases of cross-spectrum lifesaving equipment for the ambulance company as an extension of their commitment to care. Because of that, Boston MedFlight air and ground ambulances are fully stocked with supplies, medications, state-of-the-art monitoring devices, an intra-aortic balloon pump for cardiac patients and four perpetually warmed neonatal incubators for premature babies. Beyond safety, and medical excellence, the team pays attention to compassionate details. When possible, family members are welcome to ride or fly along with patients for emotional support, and critical care ground ambulances include a collection of popular DVDs in an attempt to distract stressed passengers from worry.

Farkus said insurance companies cover the cost of MedFlight care as they would any other ambulance service. As with hospital stays, patients are asked to pay the remainder of the bill when possible; if not, the hospital consortium and private donations absorb remaining costs. No one is denied life support services because of finances.

Setting business aside, Roumiantsev and Farkas speak for their peers in saying that it’s the honor and pleasure of caring for patients, while searching for innovative ways to deliver the most comprehensive care possible, that gives them the greatest satisfaction in their jobs. They reflect on the littlest ones who struggle to live, whose hope is tethered to the skills of a series of critical care teams. They remember, too, those who sadly couldn’t be saved, but take pride in knowing their efforts usually lead to long-term stories of success and comfort.

Diane Kilgore is a Boston-area blogger.