Boston MedFlight Gives BIDMC’s Mission a Lift


MedFlightBoston MedFlight (BMF) is a small non-profit organization that does extraordinary things—not the least of which is bring together six elite Boston-area hospitals to put all competition aside to deliver the best possible care for their most seriously ill and injured patients. For the last three decades, BMF has been in the business of providing sophisticated critical care transportation for about 3,000 patients each year, but unlike other organizations offering these services, it was founded by a unique consortium of medical centers—Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts Medical Center—to be used as a vital shared resource. “This is a very unique program, possibly the only one of its kind in the United States to feature this type of program collaboration,” says Jayne Carvelli Sheehan, R.N., senior vice president of ambulatory and emergency services at BIDMC, who is the medical center’s administrative member of the Board of Directors of BMF and chair of its Development Committee. “All six of us are competitors, but at the table, it’s absolutely non-partisan. It’s all of us thinking about what’s best for the MedFlight organization because it serves all of our patients and organizations at a level that meets our patient care standards, our rigorous criteria, and our mutual beliefs.”

BMF’s distinctive structure benefits all parties involved—benefits that are ultimately passed along to the patient. As a non-profit, consortium-owned organization, BMF is held to a higher standard of accountability than its for-profit counterparts, notes Sheehan. With a fleet of three helicopters and a fixed-wing prop airplane (as well as five specially equipped ambulances), it certainly has to meet Federal Aviation Association regulations, and all its pilots are trained to the level of Airline Transport Pilot, the highest certification achievable. But because all its vehicles are in effect mobile hospitals, BMF is also subject to oversight by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other medical regulatory agencies, and its clinical and communications staff of emergency medical technicians are certified at the highest level. This degree of regulation along with the exacting standards of the consortium itself has made BMF an award-winning model for other transportation organizations nationwide.

The member hospitals also gain important advantages from the consortium relationship, which allows them to maintain their requirements for certification in advanced emergency medical treatment and trauma. “If you only have one trauma case,” notes Sheehan, “how can you be really good at it? We have to treat a certain number of high-acuity patients and trauma cases to ensure that we’re always the best at providing that level of care and to meet accreditation and certification requirements.” BMF’s “undesignated roster”—those patients who don’t or can’t specify a certain hospital for care—helps to fill that quota by assigning these patients to most appropriate consortium medical center for their needs in that moment. But perhaps the most important benefit accorded the members is that, put simply, it would be financially unfeasible to operate a critical care transport system of this capability and quality on their own. BMF’s level of excellence requires a large investment of resources—for highly skilled professionals, for specialized vehicles and equipment, for ongoing simulation training, and for round-the-clock availability. “An organization of this kind is always going to have high fixed costs, no matter what,” says Sheehan. “You always have to have that 24/7 call-in center. You always have to have staff at the ready. Regardless if you have 10 flights in one night or one. When seconds count, you don’t want to be waiting around for the pilot to drive in.”

What you do want in a life-or-death situation is a modern, well-maintained aircraft or ground vehicle to be on the move within 10 minutes of your emergency call. You want the most advanced trauma equipment in the hands of specialists who continually hone their skills in clinical procedures, decision-making, critical thinking, and teamwork. And you want these features to be available to anyone who needs them, regardless of their ability to pay. BMF has provided all this and more to the Boston area for the last three decades. But as a non-profit entity, supporting a consortium of six non-profit hospitals, it has relied heavily on the support of their consortium members and philanthropic donations large and small to advance its lifesaving work. With the organization’s thirty-year anniversary in January, BMF has embarked on a $21 million capital campaign to ensure that it will continue to provide the sickest and most seriously injured patients with the right vehicle at the right time to get them to the right facility. “Any donation to MedFlight is a donation to us,” says Sheehan. “They are a critical lifeline in our work, and we are made better by all they do.”

To learn more about Boston MedFlight, visit www.bostonmedflight.org. For information on how to make a donation to Boston MedFlight through BIDMC, please contact: Deb Curran at (617) 667-7345 or dcurran1@bidmc.harvard.edu.

 

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