Regional Air Medical Services (RAMS) took flight two years ago today.
RAMS, which is operated by Regional Paramedical Services, has handled nearly 800 patient transports since January 2018, according to Katrina Key, clinical services director.
RAMS is currently transporting approximately 40 patients a month — double the number transported after the initial launch.
Each flight includes a pilot, a certified flight nurse and a certified flight medic, making the helicopter (named Marty after late RPS co-founder Martha "Marty" White) a flying emergency room. If necessary, invasive procedures can be performed mid-air because crews have an advanced certification and Marty carries blood, plasma and a variety of medicines and equipment.
Before RAMS, the closest emergency medical helicopter services were a 20-25 minute flight away. The RAMS crew not only get to the scene quickly but also strive to get back in the air in as few minutes as possible.
"If you're in need of an aircraft, you don't need to lag on scene. We're constantly looking at ways to perfect that and get you to definite care," Key said.
Whether the patient has been in a car accident or is having a heart attack or stroke, every second saved could make the difference between life and death as well as the speed of recovery.
For example, some stroke victims who have had total weakness on one side of the body have been discharged from the hospital in two to three days because they arrived at the hospital in 15 minutes rather than via a 30-45-minute ambulance ride, according to Key.
RAMS also reduces the expense of rapid transport.
"We're locally owned and operated and don't have the overhead of the other companies, so we don't leave that burden on our patients. We are less than half of what our competitors charge. We also went in-network with Blue Cross and Blue Shield, so once our patients meet their deductible, they are not balance-billed," Key said.
For those patients who do have outstanding balances, Key and the RAMS board of directors work out a compassionate, manageable payment plan.
To further reduce the financial burden on patients, RAMS offers a $60 annual membership, which covers every member of the household.
"It's not just your children. If you're taking care of your elderly mother, it covers her too," Key said.
RAMS and its billing company accepts the payments from a member's health insurance provider as paid-in-full. Because everything is handled through the billing company, members do not have the hassle of holding onto a membership card or contacting RAMS after an emergency to confirm membership status.
RAMS currently employs 17 professionals, most of whom live locally. On days when Marty is grounded because of weather, the flight crew is moved to a critical care ambulance.
The RAMS crew also does community events, such as visiting schools.
"We want to say thank you to Walker County for taking care of us. Even our outlying counties have been so good to us. There was such a need and when we opened, we showed them that we do care and we want to be there for them. We appreciate everyone's support. We want to grow and we can't do it without you," Key said.
To sign up for a RAMS membership, visit www.ramsems.com or call 1-833-359-7267.