Medical Transport vs. Medical Escorts

David A. Farcy / November 11, 2021 /

Safety is of the utmost importance whenever you find yourself away from home. Knowing you have a dependable support service to rely on if you become ill or injured lets you enjoy your travel experience. Thanks to medical transport and medical escort services, you can rest assured that you’ll be taken care of during a medical emergency.

This guide to the benefits of medical transport vs. medical escort services will cover the main differences between the two options and help you choose which is suitable for your situation. We’ll also provide important information on the insurance policies and costs so that you get the right level of care at the most affordable rate.


What Is the Difference Between Medical Transport and a Medical Escort?

Medical transport and a medical escort are two different types of medical services that assist patients in traveling from one location to another by air. While they both provide many of the same basic services, there are important differences between the two options.

The key distinguishing factor between medical transport and a medical escort is the level of service required. The state of the patient often determines which option is the best choice. Patients with severe illnesses and injuries who are not medically stable need more extensive services during transit, such as specialized equipment and healthcare professionals. 

On the other hand, stable patients don’t require high-level services because their health isn’t immediately threatened. In these cases, medical specialists or advanced medical equipment are not necessary. 

About Medical Transport

Medical transport is a full-service critical care air transit option. Also known as a dedicated air ambulance, medical transport is available for people who need immediate or serious medical care as they are transported to a nearby hospital. Medical transport typically involves the use of a dedicated airplane, such as a private jet. Medical transport aircraft are called air ambulances because they are equipped with similar medical services as a conventional ambulance. 

In addition to the special equipment on a medical transport flight, there is also a particular type of crew with certain expertise. For example, on a medical transport flight, the patient may be accompanied by emergency medical technicians with critical care training, including certifications in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS). With a dedicated air ambulance or medical transport, the flight crew may also include a physician, a registered nurse or a respiratory therapist. The crew members available on the flight will depend on the patient’s needs.

About Medical Escorts

A medical escort is a type of support service for patients who need assistance and care while they fly to their destination. Unlike medical transport or air ambulance services that use dedicated and private aircraft, a medical escort service involves a trained medical professional accompanying a patient on a regular commercial flight. Medical escort services are often carried out by flight nurses 一 registered nurses who fly with the patient to their destination and provide basic but necessary support and care along the way.

Patients who undergo medical escorts need to be able to sit upright in a seat during takeoff and landing due to transportation regulations concerning commercial flight safety. Because a medical escort involves taking a commercial flight and doesn’t require administering extensive medical care to patients, it’s a more cost-effective option than medical transport. 

When Should I Use Medical Air Transport vs. Medical Escorts?

Choosing the proper medical air flight service depends on numerous factors. The most immediate consideration is whether or not the patient is in critical condition and if their health is facing an emergency-level threat. If the patient needs to arrive at a hospital as quickly as possible, medical transport could be a life-saving service compared to a medical escort.

In addition to the state of the patient’s health, other factors that might determine when to use one service over another include:

  • Costs for the service, medications or devices.
  • Location, including whether there’s nearby access to modern medical facilities.
  • Insurance coverage.
  • Whether the patient is alone or with family or friends.

There are several types of conditions and scenarios that make a patient more suitable for medical transport vs. medical escort services.


When to Use Medical Air Transport

In general, medical air transport is reserved for critical or emergency situations. This designation is mainly due to the cost of transporting patients, making it less financially feasible to transport patients in stable conditions. However, because medical air transport aircraft are well equipped with medical technology and crews, these services are suitable for transporting a much more comprehensive range of patients with varying conditions and care levels compared to medical escort services.

Because medical air transport aircraft are outfitted with modern medical equipment similar to that in an ambulance or clinic, medical transport services can accommodate patients with conditions such as:

  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Diabetic comas.
  • Infectious diseases.
  • Severe head trauma and brain injuries.
  • Internal bleeding.

Various incidents or events can lead to the patient needing medical air transport services. Some of the more common situations that can cause a patient to require medical transport may include:

  • Traffic, train, boating or aircraft collisions.
  • Industrial accidents.
  • Sports and adventure travel accidents.
  • Disasters, explosions or other dangerous events.

It’s critical to make the correct determination to use medical air transport when necessary, as this service could potentially save the patient’s life.


When to Use Medical Escorts

Because a medical escort is a more limited service and is dependent on the rules of commercial flights, there are some limitations as to who can use medical escort services and when. Medical air transport services are much more advantageous when the patient is in critical condition and the situation is an emergency. However, there are many scenarios where medical escort services can help patients in stable conditions.

A medical escort is a non-emergency transport service that patients use for many different reasons. Some of the conditions that would be appropriate for medical escort services include:

  • Sick and elderly patients traveling for a vacation, visiting loved ones or moving to a new home.
  • A wounded or ill patient traveling for an appointment with a specialist.
  • Someone who must travel for work or another purpose with an injury or special medical needs.
  • Patients who require wheelchairs, oxygen or another medical device due to chronic medical conditions.
  • Patients who are tourists in a foreign country and need assistance flying home after an injury or illness.

Hiring a flight nurse or medical escort service for any of the above situations can help protect the patient’s health and prevent their condition from worsening. This flight option also provides the patient and their family with peace of mind knowing that the stress of travel will be mitigated with the support of a healthcare professional accompanying them.

A medical escort worker can assist with carrying medical equipment, setting it up and administering care needs as they arise. Since many conditions are aggravated by high altitudes, having a trained flight nurse on hand can help prevent a patient’s health from deteriorating. Also, if patients have cognitive difficulties, a medical escort can help them through the check-in and security processes required at the airport.


5 Things to Consider When Choosing Medical Transport or a Medical Escort 

Medical air transport and a medical escort are two different services with various pros and cons. If you are deciding between the two options, it’s important to consider a few factors about your personal situation that will help you choose the right service for your needs. 

While your condition and medical status are the biggest factors, there may be other considerations to look at that will help you make the right choice. How long it takes to get to your destination, the total costs associated with transport and your insurance coverage are all vital elements to keep in mind.

Here are five things to consider when deciding between medical transport and a medical escort for your situation:

1. Patient’s Condition

The condition of the patient is the single most important factor when deciding between medical transport and a medical escort. As a rule of thumb, if the patient is in an emergency medical situation and they require extraction, medical transport is critical. However, a medical escort is a feasible option if a patient is relatively stable and can endure the stress of a commercial flight without their condition worsening.

Below are some other considerations that might help determine whether a patient is suitable for medical escort services:

  • Free of a contagious and infectious disease
  • Free of diseases like embolisms, bowel obstructions, pneumothorax or trapped gases
  • Able to sit upright on a commercial flight
  • Fully conscious and non-combative
  • Not requiring more than five liters per minute of supplemental oxygen

If the patient’s condition doesn’t meet any of the above factors, they may require medical air transport, instead, to access better medical equipment and reach the hospital faster.

2. The Medical Team

The medical team required is another factor to consider when choosing between these two flight options. A medical escort involves one medical professional, typically a registered nurse, who can care for the patient alone. Flight nurses are fully equipped and trained to care for patients who are in stable condition and need a medical escort only.

The more complicated the patient’s condition, the larger the medical team they will need. For emergency situations, cardiac issues and other complications, the patient will benefit from the more extensive medical team available through the medical transport option.

3. Available Medical Equipment

The type of available medical equipment differs significantly between medical transport and a medical escort. With a medical escort, a nurse will travel with a limited number of supplies, which can include first aid, pharmaceuticals and basic medical devices.

When a patient receives a medical transport, they have access to state-of-the-art medical equipment, including cardiac equipment, IVs for blood transfusions, monitoring systems and more. The worse the patient’s condition is, the more equipment they will need for the medical team to provide proper care.

4. Travel and Insurance Coordination and Planning

The next factor to consider when deciding between a medical transport and medical escort service is how the patient’s travel plans and insurance claims will be coordinated. In either case, the service provider will take care of all the communication and coordination required. 

From planning the extraction and booking flights to working with the insurance company and filing claims, both medical transport and medical escort services can take care of every step along the way. Many services can also coordinate with hospitals or clinics to ensure the patient’s insurance claims are covered.

5. The Cost

Because the level of service between the two options differs significantly, the cost does, too. Medical transport services are exclusive travel options with extensive medical equipment and a large team of professionals. These factors make an air ambulance or medical transport service cost more than a medical escort service. 

Because medical escort services use existing commercial flights and require only one medical professional and limited equipment, they are a more cost-effective choice. The total cost of medical escorts will also greatly depend on the airline and the ticket prices.


What Does Travel Medical Assistance Typically Cover?

Travel medical assistance coverage varies by policy and provider. Typically, a high-coverage travel medical assistance policy will cover:

  • Locating a local medical professional.
  • Offering translating services.
  • Paying outstanding medical bills.
  • Monitoring patient conditions.
  • Repatriating remains.

In addition, travel insurance providers also cover medical transport or medical escort services should the patient require it. Travel medical assistance companies will arrange to transport or escort patients to a specific or nearby hospital or clinic. 

The insurance company will identify the closest facility capable of providing care for the patient’s particular condition. Insurance may cover the transportation costs up to a certain amount, depending on the coverage limit. Once the patient’s condition is stable, the insurance company can arrange for their transportation home or to a medical facility close to their home.


What Is the Cost Difference Between Medical Transport and Medical Escorts?

How much medical transport vs. a medical escort costs depends on a few factors. The biggest determinant will be the amount of care the patient requires for their particular condition. Another significant cost factor is the location where the transport or escort is required, and the distance traveled. 

The cost of medical transport typically starts at $10,000 and increases depending on the circumstances. A medical escort ranges in cost from $6,000 to $8,000, based on the commercial airline and the travel distance. 

Depending on your specific travel medical insurance policy, your insurance provider may cover all costs associated with medical transport and medical escorts or only a portion of the costs.

Choose REVA for Medical Escort Services and Flight Nurses

For reliable travel medical assistance solutions, trust REVA medical escort services and flight nurses. Our medical escort process is easy and professional, helping patients receive the medical care they need promptly. Providing high-quality care to ill or injured patients without the need for a full air ambulance service, REVA flight nurses and medical escorts accompany patients who cannot travel unassisted.

Learn more about REVA medical escort services and our simple process to help patients arrive at their final destination safely. Contact us today to find out how our services work with travel insurance coverage. Call us at 1-866-409-7480 or contact us online.