Medical Air Transport Teams throughout the US are often called upon to fly in hazardous weather conditions, and last year (2009) was the deadliest for EMS helicopter crashes. While the reasons for such crashes are many and varied, weather is a significant issue for all air transport medical evacuation teams.

In a cooperative effort, The Carilion Clinic Medical Team of Roanoke, Virginia, led by Paul Davenport, senior director for Carilion Clinic patient transport, and sponsored by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association [VHHA] spearheaded an effort to make sure Virginia was at the forefront of efforts to improve safety in medical air transport. The system would evolve into a statewide air transport weather alert system designed to better monitor flight risks associated with severe weather conditions. The completed program is called MedEVAC WeatherSafe and was developed by SiteVision,Inc, a custom application development firm with broad experience in healthcare and emergency operations applications.

Hosted by VHHA’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the web-based application provides real-time desktop alerts to participating EMS transport teams when a field request has been turned down due to weather conditions. Medical evacuation teams register their own helicopter base and which other member teams in their area they wish to know about if weather conditions have prevented them from responding to a hospital transport call or EMS scene call for transportation. Members can see immediately who made a request for assistance and what weather conditions caused the request to be rejected. In the event other air transport teams in the area are contacted for the same request, they can see at a glance what weather is affecting the area into which they might fly, and what if any transport teams have rejected the request - permitting each member to be in a better position to evaluate whether it is safe to dispatch their own team. When a member registers an alert, it pops up on dispatcher screens to alert them of the turn down. Likewise each member immediately registers the call data from the facility or scene request and what specific weather condition prompted them to reject the request.

In brief, MedEVAC WeatherSafe helps ensure that all medical air transport teams statewide are in a better position to evaluate whether it is safe to make a requested flight and does so in real-time. “This has been a rewarding project. Our team excels when the applications we develop help our community,” said Patrick Maddox, CEO of SiteVision, Inc.