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Project to Improve Transfers of Critically Ill Patients Marks Progress

New Regional Transport System will improve care with enhanced ground and air capabilities

A project led by the University of Vermont Health Network to improve care for critically ill patients who need to be moved urgently among hospitals in our region is marking major steps forward in August. First, a 24/7 Regional Transfer Center is now in operation, which is improving the efficiency and coordination of patient transports. In addition, the Dartmouth- Hitchcock Advanced Response Team (DHART) air ambulance program is partnering with the network to expand its service to Burlington. Training flights will start this week, and patient transports are expected to begin in mid-August. For the past two years, hospitals, medical transportation providers, patient and family advisors and others have worked together to design a new Regional Transport System (RTS) to replace the current patchwork arrangements and inconsistent standards that can impact the quality of care. The goal of the RTS is to improve outcomes and save lives by providing the highest quality of care in the right location at the right time, using the safest, most appropriate mode of transportation, and do it in a fiscally responsible manner.

“Minutes matter for patients suffering from heart attacks, trauma, strokes and other life-threatening problems, which is why we’ve designed the RTS to get patients to the nearest facility that can meet their needs as quickly as possible, which may or may not be the UVM Medical Center,” said Ryan Clouser, DO, medical director of the Regional Transport System.

Regional Transfer Center

The Regional Transfer Center will manage all patient transfers by ground and air to UVM Health Network affiliates from 13 hospitals in a 40,000-square-mile area. Any provider seeking to send a patient to a network hospital can call the Regional Transfer Center staff, who will coordinate the logistics to make sure the patient gets to the right place at the right time using the most appropriate mode of travel.

“This ‘one-call-does-it-all’ system can be a major improvement over current practice,” said Kent Hall, MD, vice president of Medical Affairs/Chief Medical Officer at University of Vermont Health Network Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital. “Today, providers in the emergency department may be pulled away from the bedside for long periods of time to make these arrangements themselves.”

New Partnership to Include Air Ambulance Service

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team (DHART), an air and ground ambulance service of Dartmouth-Hitchcock, is adding a base at the Burlington International Airport to its existing locations in Lebanon and Manchester, New Hampshire. The expansion is designed to make patient transports between hospitals by helicopter more readily available in northern Vermont and New York when needed.

In this new collaboration, DHART will supply the helicopter and pilots, and will handle all business operations. UVM Medical Center will not own or lease the helicopter, but its-trained clinical teams will provide care on board. DHART’s training of the UVM Medical Center teams has been ongoing since the spring. Training flights around the RTS service area will begin this week, with patient transports expected to begin by mid-August.

“We’re pleased to be able to collaborate with our colleagues at the UVM Health Network in expanding this important Regional Transport and Transfer System,” said DHART Director Kyle Madigan, RN, MSN, CMTE. “Dartmouth-Hitchcock has provided air and ground ambulance services through DHART for more than 20 years, and we’re proud of our reputation for excellence in service. We look forward to providing an expanded reach of air medical services to the patients of northern Vermont and northern New York.”

“We’re excited to bring together the UVM Medical Center’s clinical team with DHART, which has an excellent track record for quality, and aligns with our academic mission and non-profit status,” said Clouser. “This expanded air ambulance service builds on our ground-based critical care transport capabilities, which handle the vast majority of transfers, so we can provide the highest quality of care to the very large region we serve.”

As the expanded air ambulance service begins, RTS leaders will be closely evaluating all aspects of the program to make sure it is improving patient care, and only being used when medically necessary. Additional quality improvements in the RTS, including establishing uniform standards for education and certification of transport staff, will be implemented in the coming year.

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About The University of Vermont Health Network

The University of Vermont Health Network is an integrated system serving the residents of Vermont and northern New York with a shared mission: working together, we improve people’s lives.  The partners are:

Our 4,000 health care professionals are driven to provide high-quality, cost-efficient care as close to home as possible. Strengthened by our academic connection to the University of Vermont, each of our affiliates remains committed to its local community by providing compassionate, personal care shaped by the latest medical advances and delivered by highly skilled experts.

  July 31, 2018