Established in 1987 and rebranded in 2000, Medway Air Ambulance is one of the largest air medical providers in the United States. The company owns and operates a fleet of nine medically configured aircraft, including Lear 35s and 45s. Medway completes more than 1,200 domestic and international transports annually. Operating with a floating asset model, Medway typically has an aircraft within 90 minutes of a major US city every day. Medway has two bases – its primary operation is located 35 miles north of Atlanta in Lawrenceville, GA, and a secondary base in Stuart, Florida, which serves the Caribbean and South Florida. Medway and its sister company employ over 150 full-time employees.
How long have you worked for the company, and what does your role involve?
As a Registered Nurse, I have cared for neonatal, pediatric, and adult patients for more than 35 years. Since 1998, I have focused on patient transports, developing mobile care protocols, and providing safe medical transfers on ground ambulances, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft. I joined Medway in 2012 as Program Director to provide medical staff oversight and lead the sales department. In 2020, I was promoted to Vice President of Business Development to continue building our brand, expand our service market, and strengthen client relationships. In addition to my role at Medway, I have proudly served on the Board of Directors for the European Air Medical Institute (EURAMI) for the last three years.
What are the biggest changes you have witnessed in the air ambulance market since you started working with Medway?
In the last decade, air ambulance in-flight care capabilities have expanded so we can manage patients with more complex conditions. Over time, our patients’ acuity level has significantly increased. Some air ambulance providers, like us, are equipped to safely transport neonatal, ECMO, and LVAD patients. These advances have expanded patient access to specialty care at centers of excellence across the country, helping to improve patient outcomes.
The pandemic has created a new set of challenges both for international repatriation and domestic flights. Many facilities require Covid testing prior to transport or admission, which can delay flights. To expedite the process, Medway teams introduced bedside Covid testing capability early in 2021. However, finding hospital bed availability remains a challenge.
Medway is accredited by EURAMI, among others; how important is accreditation to your business?
EURAMI accreditation validates that Medway has achieved high standards in business ethics, aviation, medical care, and safety. Earning EURAMI accreditation is synonymous with providing best-in-class care; so, patients – as well as payors – know they can trust us to provide high-quality service every day. In addition, many travel assistance plans require air ambulance companies to be EURAMI accredited to transport their members.
How challenging has Covid been for Medway, given the lack of insurance business? How did the company cope with the drop-off in insurance business?
As the pandemic evolved, Medway did see a drop in travel assistance flights in international markets. However, we also experienced an increase in domestic transports as hospitals transferred patients to relieve overcrowding and increase bed availability. Medway has focused on strengthening its relationships with centers of excellence, establishing itself as a trusted provider for specialty facilities that attract patients nationwide for their expert care and positive outcomes.
Are you starting to see a recovery in the international travel sector and a resultant increase in requests for air ambulance repatriations?
With the easing of travel restrictions for American and Canadian tourists, we have seen a definite increase in international transports. We are also providing more non-Covid-related medical flights from Europe and the Caribbean. While international travel continues to normalize, the pandemic still affects medical transports. Flight lead times are slightly increased as entry and exit regulations in each country vary, and approval protocols take longer than normal. We anticipate the process will continue to improve after the New Year.
What do you think the air medical sector has learned from the Covid pandemic about business preparedness and business continuity planning?
Air ambulance providers have realized that Covid is not going away anytime soon and will continue to impact medical transports. We need to be vigilant in our preparation so we can respond quickly to patients’ evolving needs while protecting the pilots and clinicians who complete these transports. Although we have determined best practices for our own program, it would be beneficial for the air ambulance industry to develop and publish best practice care guidelines for patients with airborne infectious diseases based on what we have collectively learned since 2020. Scientific data is needed to determine the best way to transport these patients in an air ambulance: a personal isolation chamber or an open cabin with protective gear.
As with many companies, we have learned that diversification and flexibility are essential to withstand a global pandemic. By investing in the appropriate equipment, developing new safety protocols, and expanding our typical patient profile, we were able to pivot quickly and minimize any business shortfalls.