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Interview with an AeroMedical Case Manager – What you need to know when hiring an Air Ambulance Service

August 30, 2016











AeroCare AeroMedical Case Manager Jennifer Etzel-Elaqad


By Doug Swan

Jennifer Etzel-Elaqad is an experienced AeroMedical Case Manager with AeroCare Worldwide Air Ambulance. She’s a former Registered Nurse and has more than two years’ experience working with AeroCare as a case manager. Etzel-Elaqad and her fellow case managers speak with a patients’ family members, patients, and healthcare professionals to do the complicated job of coordinating and scheduling an air medical transport. Sometimes these are short flights in the U.S, other times these are complex critical care flights in the U.S. or internationally. The case manager’s job is to arrange the entire medical transport, including choosing the right aircraft, planning the route, coordinating with the healthcare facilities, and scheduling the ground transportation are among just some of their responsibilities.

AeroCare is the leading fixed-wing provider of air medical transports. They provide fixed-wing air medical flights, and emergency medevac service, both domestically and internationally. Additionally, AeroCare provides commercial medical escorts and medical repatriation flights for patients in the U.S. that need to be transported back to their home country.

AeroCare also specializes in transporting organ transplant teams, organs, and people waiting for an organ transplant, who need immediate air and ground transportation.

What does the AeroMedical Case Manager do?

With all of the services that AeroCare offers they need skilled and experienced professionals on the front lines taking calls. That’s where the importance of a case manager’s responsibility comes in. We were able to sit down and speak with Etzel-Elaqad about her role, what people looking for an air ambulance should expect when they call and other vital topics for those in need of hiring and air ambulance to transport a patient or loved-one.

“My role as a case manager is to thoroughly guide my client through every step of the flight planning process, while minimizing the amount of effort on their part. They are already dealing with enough stressors. We pride ourselves on a one call, one contact process, meaning you will only deal with the case manager you initially spoke to and not be transferred around the company,” said Etzel-Elaqad.

What information is needed when you call an air ambulance company?

When you call an air ambulance company, expect them to ask you for basic information, so you may want to have the information written down ahead of time before you make the call. We asked Etzel-Elaqad what typical information is needed.

“Typically when a client calls we gather basic information. We can fly any type of patient from a neonate to geriatric, psych, and very critical patient. The basic information needed is geographical”, said Etzel Elaqad.

· Where is the patient now and where are they going?

· When are they interested in going?

· Have you already been accepted into another facility, care center, or rehab?

· How many family members are interested in traveling with the patient?

“We gather minimal information at that point and rapidly provide a quote, as we know when paying privately the cost is of utmost concern.”

What about insurance? Is the medical flight covered?

One of the responsibilities of the case manager is to help the patient find the most affordable means to pay for a medical flight. They will help determine if a patient’s insurance can be billed for the service.

“We do our best to first determine if there is a possibility of being covered fully or partially by insurance, there are many variables in determining insurance eligibility,” she said.

· Is the patient still working and covered by private pay insurance?

· What is the medical condition of the patient and what prevents them from flying commercially?

· Is the patient going to a higher level of care?

· Is the facility we are going the closest most appropriate or is there a facility closer that can perform the same treatments or interventions?

Aren’t all air ambulance companies’ and air medical transport providers the same? Shouldn’t I just use the least expensive one?

“The first thing I tell people is that we are NOT a broker, a broker is a middle man who usually has a very nice website with pictures of planes and medical personal. They claim to fly globally and have a large network of aircrafts, while this is partially true, their network is a database of actual air ambulance providers such as AeroCare.

You call a broker and tell them the originating and destination cities, and the broker will then call their database of actual air ambulance providers such as AeroCare. We provide a quote to the broker, using our plane and our team; the broker then marks that quote up between $3000 to $5000 and relays that to the caller. You can avoid that additional mark-up by dealing directly with an actual Air Ambulance provider like AeroCare. The other main difference is that the broker has no idea of the education skill set and experience of the medical personal they are outsourcing to, nor the safety of the aircraft. We have our own program, so we have complete control over the dynamics of our flight team and the safety protocols,” she said.

Is accreditation really that important? Aren’t they all the same?

“There is accreditation and then there is Accreditation. Obviously any aircraft requires minimal FAA accreditation and licensure to fly, but when you’re flying potentially critical patients the bar is set much higher. AeroCare has opted to participate in CAMTS accreditation. CAMTS is a voluntary program, which holds us to a much higher standard than a department of health licensure to fly patients. CAMTS requires us to have very specific protocols in place in regards to employee training, retentions, medical safety, aircraft safety and, of course keeping our skill set above the minimal bar level,” said Etzel-Elaqad.

The CAMTS accreditation is a very hard accreditation for air ambulance companies to attain. That’s why on there only about 65 CAMTS accredited air ambulances companies worldwide. Price is an important factor when shopping for an air ambulance provider; however, safety should be the main concern. When you’re trusting the life of your loved one to a company you’ve never done business with, you want to make sure you’re dealing with the best and safest one possible.

What are a few key questions people should ask when shopping for an air ambulance provider?

Getting some insight from a case manager about the process will hopefully help you make a clear choice and give you the knowledge to ask the right questions when you’re looking to hire an air ambulance service. We wrapped up our interview with Etzel-Elaqad by asking her if there were some key questions to ask when you’re shopping around for a reputable air medical flight service, what would they be?

“Personally I feel there are a few key questions to ask a provider:

· Are you a broker or do you own and operate your own aircrafts and medical personnel?

· Does this quote include ‘bed-to-bed” service, ground transport and full medical staff with no hidden fees?

· What type of a contract will I be signing in? How many pages is it and are you able to walk me through exactly what I am agreeing and signing?”