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Beyond Transport, Chopper May Help Integrate Care

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, December 7, 2011

"We are building 'systemness' in this state," says Lucas. "Part of 'systemness' is getting patients to the right level of care as quickly as possible when they have emergencies."

The helicopter will provide air ambulance coverage for southern Wyoming, western Nebraska, and northern Colorado. But AirLife Denver isn't "just bringing a helicopter and putting it in Cheyenne," Jana Williams, program director for AirLife Denver, tells HealthLeaders. Cheyenne Regional will also have access to two AirLife Lear Jets, a primary flight nurse team, and four specialty teams: high-risk obstetrics, neonatal transport, an intra-aortic balloon pump team, and stroke-certified transport.

According to Williams, Cheyenne Regional is putting about a half-million dollars towards the program. AirLife Denver, which is the emergency medical and critical care transport service of the HealthONE healthcare system, is paying for the rest.

Lucas believes that the new air ambulance will become a significant component of the Wyoming Integrated Care Network. He says it's a service line "that fits in with multiple other initiatives," including a telehealth service and a health information exchange.

It may also help keep patients in Wyoming for their healthcare, which has been an issue for the state. Many of Wyoming's population centers are at its borders, and patients often head to cities such as Denver, CO; Rapid City, SD; Billings, MT; and Salt Lake City, UT, for their healthcare.

When Dan Perdue, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, and I spoke in June about the formation of the Wyoming Integrated Care Network, he stressed the importance of keeping the "continuum of care inside the state."

There's certainly a better chance of that happening if rural hospitals don't have to call around to other states to see if there are any helicopters available.

"We want to make sure that Wyoming hospitals and Wyoming physicians feel they can participate in care coordination mechanisms with other Wyoming-based facilities," Lucas says.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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