Air Ambulance Network: Kirk Pacheco, President & CEO

by HCE Exchange on August 19, 2010

In 1971, Barbara Hutner was asked to escort a patient who needed medical assistance on a commercial airliner. Hutner recognized a need and founded Air Ambulance Network with her husband. Aside from the U.S. Military, the company is the oldest air ambulance service in the United States. It remains a family run business, which has shaped the industry of emergency air transport today. Based in Florida, Air Ambulance Network provides services worldwide. Recent transports include Hong Kong, Germany, and the Ukraine, as well as frequent flights in North America.

The Air Ambulance utilizes a fleet of shorter-range propeller aircraft, as well as longer range jet aircraft. They also customize aircraft to suit the needs of any given medical situation. “Sometimes a family would like more passengers or a little longer range for a non-stop flight, for instance, so we can contract larger aircraft when we are asked to. We’ve even been asked to contract a 757, so we pretty much cover the whole gamut of lift,” says Kirk Pacheco, President, and CEO.

Tailoring Business to Need

A good portion of the air ambulance business is gained by reputation. “Quality of service, customer relations and the caring that we display to our clients; word of mouth travels,” says Pacheco. “We also do global advertising through the internet, shows, and local hospitals.”

The company tailors each trip to meet the exact needs of each patient. They perform bedside-to-bedside service, so if a U.S. citizen traveling in a foreign country gets sick, for instance, one call to Air Ambulance Network takes care of getting them from their travel location to their hospital of choice back home.

“It’s not a boiler plate or a rubber stamp,” says Pacheco. “When we obtain a comprehensive medical report on a patient, we take a look at that medical report and we tailor and configure the air ambulance and medical escort team to that patient’s needs. We always send the right individuals to care for that patient. If they need a doctor, we bring a doctor. If that doctor needs to specialize in pediatrics or bariatric medicine or whatever the needs are—we tailor that medical team to the needs of that specific patient.”

If a patient needs critical care, they are flown in an aircraft outfitted as an intensive care unit. These vehicles carry the full mode of monitors and emergency life support equipment and drugs. The company contracts with specialists, when necessary, to make sure the patient receives the highest quality of care.

For patients who are in stable condition and can ride seated in a commercial airliner, a medical escort is provided to see to the patients’ medical and assistance needs during the flight.

“The number one focus and driving force of the company is patient care,” says Pacheco. “Second would be the wishes of the family, to respect their wishes or concerns while providing them with options.”

Cost is a concern, as well. Each case begins with an examination of the medical report, and the medical director determines the most cost effective way of moving a patient while maintaining the level of care that they need. “Maybe the air ambulance is the only way to go, but we can provide some options to hold down the cost and lessen the burden on the family,” says Pacheco.

Current Focus

The company is entering stage two of an IT upgrade for admissions. They are now implementing, testing and evaluating. “We have created a master database where all our flight coordinators, director of operations, and medical department team can log in,” says Pacheco. “We’re generating less paperwork. We’re trying to do as much as we can towards the green initiative. This has been a big push.”

“We’ve also started reaching out more locally within the community,” says Pacheco. “We recently did a charity walk for St. Jude’s hospital. We also provided toys to the children who were to be in the hospital for Christmas … We’ve also reached out to the local care providers, the case managers, and the social workers. We go to their association meetings and lead brief, open-ended discussions on the air ambulance industry and what to expect and not expect from an air ambulance.”

In the last 24 months, the biggest transition for the company has been the shift from pay-per-flight to taking customers on terms. Working for travel insurance companies and health insurance companies is also an added risk. “We’re extending credit and when all is said and done, we’re hoping that credit comes in on time,” Pacheco says.

Where Air Ambulance Network is Going

“Quality of service can be provided at a reasonable cost,” says Pacheco. “However, being the most inexpensive air ambulance is not always in the best interest of patient care. Quite frequently, you would find families—our clients—look for the most inexpensive means of transport at the risk of patient care. We pride ourselves on quality of care to the patient first. I tell all my clients that. I understand your wishes, I understand your concerns, but patient care comes first. We will not sacrifice patient care—level of service—for cost.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kevin Gilbert July 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Kirk it’s Kevin Gilbert, HDC class of 1978. I see you’ve done well and wanted to touch base with you. My cell is 248-342-5971. Look me up and lets chat!

Kevin Gilbert

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