History and Mission
Air Evac Lifeteam was established in 1985 by a group of citizens in West Plains, Mo. The goal was to provide air medical transportation and ensure access to emergency health care for their remote community in the Missouri Ozark region. Although air ambulances were primarily based in metropolitan areas at the time, the company founders believed that the people who needed air medical transport the most were those living in rural areas, often far away from a hospital. That was more than 30 years ago.
Today, Air Evac Lifeteam is the largest independently owned and operated membership-supported air ambulance service in the United States, with more than 125 bases across 15 states.
As the company has evolved, it has remained true to its original mission and patient-first focus through an unwavering dedication to the following:
- Remaining an independent provider and working impartially with other health care providers, including more than 2,000 diverse referral sources representing 1,000+ hospitals and 1,000+ EMS agencies. This ensures patients are cared for and transported to the most appropriate medical facility.
- Providing ACCESS to the medically underserved areas of the United States, often in rural areas that other air ambulance companies may not adequately service;
- Responding rapidly through a contiguous footprint of mutually supporting bases in collaboration with numerous hospitals, physicians, 911 centers and EMS agencies;
- Taking an active role in the advancement of health care services in the communities it services, through local interest in, knowledge of and relationships in each community;
- Providing superior patient care and aviation operations associated with substantial financial resources, a professionally managed, common infrastructure and standardized, centrally controlled operations.
Air Evac Lifeteam is committed to providing increased access to emergency trauma care to rural Americans. In a life- or limb-threatening medical emergency, a successful patient recovery often depends on the amount of time it takes to deliver that patient to the trauma center or advanced health care medical center. Approximately 90 percent of Air Evac's patient transports originate from a rural area as defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That is why more than 90 percent of our aircraft are based in rural areas. Air Evac Lifeteam believes that those who choose a rural way of life should have the same benefits when it comes to emergency care as those who choose to live in a metropolitan community.
Critical Facts: Access to Definitive Health Care for Rural Americans
- 46.7 million Americans, living in rural areas, are more than an hour away from a Level 1 or 2 trauma center even with the number of air and ground ambulance services available today. 1
- Rural trauma victims are twice as likely to die from an accident or medical condition versus an urban victim due to failure to arrive at a hospital within the "Golden Hour". 2
- Numerous changes in the nation's delivery of health care have made the trauma and tertiary care centers a vital hub for outlying hospitals. The result is an increasing need to transport a greater number of patients longer distances for complex, time-dependent care, such as primary cardiac intervention, strokes and complex surgery. 3
- Many rural hospitals continue to close each year reducing resources to those in need. Some rural hospitals have undergone changes in mission and structure during the last 20 years. In an effort to help maintain a sufficient number of hospitals, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have developed the Critical Access Hospital program, which pays the full cost for Medicare beneficiaries. This has come in exchange for structural changes in the hospital which include reducing beds to 25 or less and shortening average length of stay to less than 96 hours. The goal is to keep hospitals open which is a tremendous benefit to rural communities. However, it also leads to a concurrent need to transfer patients with complex health conditions to distant trauma and tertiary care centers, requiring a rapid and even more sophisticated medical transport system. 3
- Increasing numbers of hospitals, even in rural areas, are on diversion status due to lack of bed availability and access to specialty physicians. This diversion, often requiring transport to distant facilities, is now becoming commonplace throughout the country. 3
- A decreasing number of specialist physicians - general, orthopedic and neurosurgeons - has reduced the availability of emergency specialty care at community hospitals making it necessary to refer patients to trauma and tertiary centers either directly from accident scenes or in secondary transfers from the emergency department. 3
- In the past 10 years, there has been an 8 percent decline in the number of emergency departments in community hospitals. This is a trend that is expected to continue. 4
The company is supported by an expanding community of more than 2.7 million members who pay an annual fee and are entitled to be transported free-of-charge for life- or limb-threatening medical emergencies. Membership support enables the company to provide its services in rural areas that otherwise might not be capable of supporting an air ambulance service.
- 1 Source: Journal of the American Medical Association.
- 2 Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- 3 Source: Association of Air Medical Services.
- 4 Source: American Hospital Association.