Care on Wheels

By Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Life Flight unveils a new ground transport program — the first of its kind in the nation — to better serve patients in rural areas

ambulance

You’ve heard of doctors making house calls, but now, they’re making ambulance calls, too, at least for patients being transported from Intermountain Healthcare’s rural hospitals in Utah and Idaho.

Intermountain is pioneering a new Life Flight ground transport program with EMS agencies in rural Utah that gives patients and ambulance crews access to an ICU doctor and a specially-trained Intermountain Life Flight nurse while they’re en route to a hospital or trauma center.

The new program — which is the first service of its kind in the nation — is designed to enhance the level of care for transported patients by utilizing the skill and experience of specially-trained nurses and physicians. The new program is being unveiled at Intermountain’s Cassia Regional Medical Center in Cassia, Idaho; Delta Community Medical Center; Fillmore Community Medical Center; Heber Valley Medical Center; Park City Medical Center; Sevier Valley Medical Center; Sanpete Valley Hospital, Mount Pleasant; and Bear River Valley Hospital, in Tremonton.

How the new service will work — and how patients and providers will benefit. Kris Kemp, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at Intermountain Healthcare’s Heber Valley Medical Center and Park City Medical Center, says the new program will greatly benefit patients in rural areas.

"At Heber Valley Medical Center, for example, we transfer about 10 percent of our emergency patients to larger facilities. It’s always in the patient’s best interest to go to the nearest hospital first to be stabilized, then be transported to a trauma center, if needed,” he says. “But because of the likelihood of bad weather in our area, many times Life Flight is unable to fly, and patients have to be transported via ambulance.”

Until now, that drive time has created a gap when patients aren’t cared for by a physician, and often times, it’s hard for a hospital-based nurse who’s accompanying the patient to provide all of the care the patient needs during transport. The new program helps us resolve both of those challenges.

“Now, when a patient is transported via ambulance, a medical doctor can still be part of their care team,” Dr. Kemp says. “Specially-trained Intermountain nurses will ride with the patient and crew, helping to keep the patient stable en route. These nurses will receive extensive training on the details of each ambulance — they’ll know exactly where the supplies, equipment, and medications are. And they’ll be able to consult with an Intermountain ICU doctor via web access or on the phone, depending on the patient’s condition.”

When needed, critical care doctors can be called on to answer questions or offer an expert medical opinion while the patient is being cared for in an ambulance. The Life Flight ground transport program will also increase the skills and confidence of Intermountain nurses who are riding in the ambulance with the patient.