Angel Flight West utilizes aviation to increase health care access in order to improve health outcomes for critically ill people living within its service area. AFW is focused on increasing requests for service, which have declined in recent years. A requester can be any individual working at a health care facility, including a doctor, nurse, or social worker. Through a survey, AFW sought to better understand social workers’ perceptions of our services and what would better increase their requests. A survey was administered to 1400 social workers and it returned at 17% response. Included in this post are some of our answers to the frequent survey comments and questions we received.
Q: Why does AFW need seven days to arrange a flight?
- AFW needs sufficient time to find an available volunteer pilot. Once we receive a request, the data is entered into our database system for pilots to view. It can take some time to find an available pilot on a given day as all AFW pilots are volunteers. Additionally, in most cases, we must find more than one pilot in order to cover both the trip to treatment and the return trip home.
- For longer trips, over 300 nautical miles, we must split the flight up into a multiple leg relay – it can take up to 3 pilots to travel 800-1000 miles. In these cases, AFW could potentially be looking for six available pilots to cover a patient’s roundtrip flights.
- Although it lowers the chances of covering flights, we are sometimes able to take shorter notice requests. We have been able to find available pilots on short notice in some cases. This is determined on a case by case basis based on the location of the flight, the number of pilots in that region, and the amount of available flights already scheduled in advance for that day.
Q: Why are you not a guaranteed service?
- General aviation (GA) aircraft are different from commercial airliners and much more limited by weather conditions. Thunderstorms, icing conditions, and high winds are all factors that can limit a GA pilot’s ability to fly. These decisions usually cannot be made until the day before or even the day of a flight.
- Because pilots are volunteers, there are some flights where we simply cannot find an available volunteer to fly on a given day.
- While we are not a 100% guaranteed service, we are proud to note that we only need to cancel 10% of our flights annually. Weather and pilot availability may impact the ability to successfully complete a flight, but we are working towards alternate transportation options to utilize when these things occur.
Q: It is difficult or impossible for my client to have a backup plan.
- We understand that sometimes we may be the only resource available to your client. We will work on a flight up until the afternoon prior if necessary. If your patient is able to reschedule, we are always willing to try again for the next week.
- We are also continuing to grow relationships with other transportation organizations to establish back-up plans as well as actively growing our pilot base to have increased pilot availability. We are sometimes able to book commercial airline tickets through Alaska Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines, or greyhound bus tickets. This is however, an option only available in special circumstances in limited locations.
Q: Why do I need to complete the paperwork and make the request? It is really my client that knows all of that information.
- All AFW pilots are volunteers, which means that they donate the fully cost of flying their aircraft. Because of their generosity, AFW staff is responsible for making sure flight requests are legitimate and fit within the AFW requirements. We require financial verification of need for assistance and confirmation that a passenger is ambulatory and physically able to fly safely on a non-pressurized aircraft.
- We can now take requests directly from passengers. In this case, we will take all of the information from the passenger and then seek medical and financial need verification from an official requester at a medical facility. We hope that this will streamline our process significantly and lessen the amount of time required for busy medical professionals.
Thank you again to all social workers who responded to this survey. We learned some very valuable information from you that will help AFW to improve our services and better the process for helping your patients!