Most Physicians Lack Basic Knowledge of Resources to Treat Travelers Experiencing In-Flight Medical Emergencies

Source: airRx

When someone experiences a medical emergency during a commercial airline flight, the call usually goes out for any medical personnel onboard to assist. In a first-of-its-kind survey of physicians, 42% reported having been asked to volunteer. However, nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) reported little or no knowledge of the protocols for handling medical events, including 64% who reported having no knowledge at all. Nearly half of physicians responding (44%) did not know that most U.S. flights have ground medical support available, according to a news release from airRx, maker of a smartphone app developed to help physicians and other medical personnel volunteering during in-flight medical events.

The study that examined the experiences and knowledge of physicians about volunteering during medical emergencies on commercial airline flights has been published in Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, the journal of the Aerospace Medical Association. The survey was conducted by airRx -- the only smartphone app developed to help physicians and other medical personnel volunteering during in-flight medical events -- in collaboration with Jump Simulation, part of OSF Innovation and a collaboration with the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP).

“Improvement in physician knowledge about support protocols may increase physician comfort in responding to events, improve patient care and improve decision-making by the pilot regarding continuation or diversion of the flight,” study lead author Eric Chatfield, DO, Asante Three Rivers Medical Center, Grants Pass, Oregon, said in the news release. “Physicians should know, for example, that support by direct contact with ground medical staff is nearly always available except during takeoff and landing.”

Few resources or training opportunities are available to familiarize physicians with what they may encounter as in-flight volunteers, which often includes medical events and conditions outside of their own medical specialties. airRx – available for download at no cost -- enables healthcare professionals to access 23 scenarios of the most common medical emergencies, with concise treatment algorithms and reference information to help evaluate and treat the patient.

“The survey also revealed that while most physicians (73%) believed airlines are required to have medical supplies, half (54%) reported having no knowledge of the supplies available,” study co-author Raymond E. Bertino, MD, lead developer of airRx and Clinical Professor of Radiology and Surgery at UICOMP, said in the news release. “The medications and equipment required to be available vary by country and geographic area. airRx catalogs these resources so the physician can quickly understand what is available.”

The online survey was completed by 418 members of the medical staffs at three hospitals in Peoria, Illinois that serve urban, suburban and rural patients. The survey included primary care physicians and specialists.

Related Content