Medical Escort Vs. Air Ambulance: What Is the Best Option for You?

EMS Emergency

It can be confusing when you know you need medical care when traveling from one place to the next, but do you require a fixed wing air ambulance or will a simple medical escort suffice? For that matter, what’s the difference between these two medical transport options?

What is a Medical Escort?

A medical escort is a medically trained professional that travels with the patient when going from point A to point B. That might mean traveling by airplane, but it might also mean using some type of ground transport.

What is an Air Ambulance?

Air ambulances are typically fixed wing airplanes that carry not just the patient but a medical team, as well. The focus is on continuity of care, meaning the flight staff conducts a full assessment before and after travel and files a report when transferring the patient’s care to the next group of medical professionals.  An air ambulance is preferred when time or distance in transport is a critical factor or when transport time by ground exceeds two hours. The medical equipment on a fixed wing air ambulance is more advanced than that found on a traditional ambulance.  In addition, it is staffed with a flight crew specially trained to provide emergency and critical care medical support.

What is the Difference Between the Two Forms of Medical Transport?

There are a number of differences. For one thing, a medical escort can travel in many ways including by commercial plane and even bus. An air ambulance transport is typically medically necessary with speed, distance and level of care being the defining factors.

A medical escort is more often focused on monitoring stable patients who need minimal care, as well. An air ambulance functions similarly to a traditional ambulance service with a higher level of care typically available. The flight staff will include a Critical Care Nurse and a Flight Paramedic.  For some patients an air ambulance may include:

  •  A flight physician
  • A flight respiratory therapist
  • Neonatal Teams

The air ambulance care team works to stabilize a patient in some cases instead of transporting already medically stabilized individuals. The patient may require more than monitoring, as well. A flight team can administer medicine, oxygen and perform emergency procedures. At best, a medical escort will attempt to stabilize a patient until help can arrive in an emergency.

Your choice of a medical escort or an air ambulance service depends on the needs of the patient. A patient who is stable might do well with a medical escort, but for comprehensive medical care, consider an air ambulance service.