It was Genichi Taguchi an engineer and statistician who said cost is more important than quality but quality is the best way to reduce cost.
Everyone likes a good price but when your life is in someone else's hands, how much is too much?
iPMI Magazine asked the international air ambulance industry this exact question in the recent round table business forum International Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Strategies. Read on to learn do IPMI insurers purchase medical assistance, transportation and logistics services based on cost or quality?
EVA KLUGE, AIR ALLIANCE: Most insurers/assistance companies (not all) will have a due diligence (vetting) process prior to using a provider. This grants a certain quality.
Price and quality depend on when and where the medical transportation shall occur. For example, if we have a stable patient from the Canary Islands with a femur fracture, going to Western Europe, there are quite a few of providers offering this route the same or the next day. So the price plays a dominant role. If we have, e.g. an urgent polytrauma case from Iraq, going to Europe or Asia, aeromedical options for clients are far more limited and price becomes much less important.
IRENA DIMITRIJEVIC, JET EXECUTIVE: To become a provider in first place (or a preferred provider within large insurance companies) the quality of your services is essential to receive a first chance.
Accreditation, documentation and audits are the first steps of becoming a new provider. After you have passed “the exam”, the price is the key criteria for being selected. Why? Well you need to ask the insurers. I guess because they can! They can choose between so many Air Ambulance providers; it is one opportunity to keep the costs a bit limited. And we shall also keep in mind that regular travel insurances for tourists in these days are very inexpensive - I am not sure how the medical costs can be covered by the low earnings.
CLAUDIA SCHMIEDHUBER, TYROL AIR AMBULANCE: I believe that historically providers were chosen based on relationships - companies often only worked with 2 or 3 preferred providers. However in the last years, there is definitely an industry trend to get 3-5 quotes from well-established industry providers which will then be compared in regards to costs and availability as well as suitability for the mission. Unfortunately this technique often leads to frustration on both sides – the provider and the client (Medical Assistance).
Having worked in both fields I know that a lot of Medical Assistance companies have defined procedures in place when it comes to choosing a transport provider. Some place focus on costs, others on the aircraft type or geological location of the provider. Whatever procedure is in place, it is important that both sides understand the complexity of such missions. Unfortunately it is often very hard to understand for Medical Assistance companies why prices can vary, why different missions might be more complex, and why sometimes it is not possible to organise such missions in the required time frame. Topics like permissions, crew visa requirements, weather, landing restrictions all play a role in flight planning. Such factors are often not taken into consideration when choosing an AA flight.
The approach for all air ambulance providers has to be that we educate our clients, we show them how a quote is being put together, what factors play into such missions – thus we avoid misunderstandings and the client is more aware of the different aspects involved.
For commercial repatriations it is the medical clearance of the airline, availability and getting the medical escort to the desired destination that can prolong such a process and lead to delays and frustration.
In summary the key is to improve the decision making process for clients which leads to more satisfactory results for the providers via better communication, pro-active approaches and educating ourselves and the clients in their area of expertise to create a mutual and understanding knowledge base.