What are the Different Types of Medical Transportation?

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  • Written By: Barbara R. Cochran
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Many types of medical transportation services are available to different kinds of patients. Most of them are available on call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The medical transportation service chosen depends on whether services requested are emergency or non-emergency, and whether the service is needed for local, long-distance national, or international transport. The appropriate medical transportation service also depends on a patient’s condition or disability.

Local ambulance companies transport patients to nearby hospitals when they experience a life-threatening medical emergency, or when they are having severe psychiatric issues. In general, emergency medical technicians and paramedics who have expertise in various life-saving techniques are on board the ambulance with the patient during transport. If a patient needs to be transported from the hospital to which he or she has been taken to another hospital several miles away for rapid and appropriate medical intervention, he or she will most likely be transported in a life flight helicopter. An emergency air ambulance is used when someone needs to be rushed to a hospital that is several states away, or to a foreign country, in order to get the necessary treatment or procedure.


In non-emergency life support situations, what determines the appropriateness of a medical transportation service is the nature of a patient’s ongoing disability. The patient may be quite ill, may not be ambulatory, or might otherwise be physically impaired at the time of a scheduled trip to a medical facility or provider’s office. A wheelchair accessible transport or medical taxi van is usually appropriate for non-ambulatory patients in non-emergency situations. Non-emergency medical transportation in an ambulance or medical transport van might also be indicated when someone has to be transferred from one medical or nursing home facility to another on a gurney or stretcher.

In some cases, community mental health centers that serve a large patient population lease or own fleets of vans and automobiles. The vehicles are used to bring patients who cannot afford a car and have no access to bus service, or who for physical or age reasons are unable to drive, to the mental health facility. They may also be used for transportation to outside medical appointments. In that way, psychiatric patients can get every kind of medical care they need.

Private medical transportation services may or may not be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or private health care insurance plans. They often charge private individuals who contact them directly to make use of their services higher fees than they charge hospitals and nursing homes. Trips are usually covered in part by insurance if they are deemed to have been medically necessary. Ambulance service to a hospital is generally considered a medically necessary service, while a trip to a doctor’s office usually is not.


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