Last updated: 06:00 PM ET, Wed August 10 2016

This New App Offers Tremendous Help To Any Doctor Planning To Fly

Travel Technology | Gabe Zaldivar | August 10, 2016

This New App Offers Tremendous Help To Any Doctor Planning To Fly

Photo courtesy AirRX

In some ways, a budding new innovation will help ensure that the there is a specialized doctor in the house.

The house, in this case, is aboard your next respective flight and the doctor, in virtual form, is a new app appropriately named AirRX.

Now it should be noted that the app lends aid to those health professionals who, because of happenstance and the constraints offered mid-flight, might be called into action without practice in various medical areas.

We had the pleasure of hearing from Raymond E. Bertino — M.D., Clinical Professor of Radiology and Surgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria — who explained a great deal more about the app and its aim.

He, along with five other medical professionals, helped develop the app that you can download for iOS and Android for $4.99.

But first, here is an image of what options are offered when downloaded:

Photo courtesy AirRX

What follows is our brief interview with Dr. Bertino:

TravelPulse: What is the inherent value of airRx to airlines and passengers?

Raymond E. Bertino, M.D.: Our mission is to help enhance emergency care on commercial airline flights. 

When the flight crew asks for a physician volunteer, the physician wonders what he/she will run into, who is available to help and whether he/she will know what to do. A urologist may find themselves taking care of a seizure patient, a gynecologist handling a heart attack or a pediatrician delivering a baby!

Physicians have a lot of knowledge but generally are only very experienced in their small area of medicine. The app builds on their inherent knowledge, reminding them of the things that they will need to do in the various emergency situations they may encounter.

For airline passengers, the app means that if they have a medical emergency and a physician volunteers to care for them, that the physician will have the information ready at hand to help the physician be the most effective possible. It will help the patient have the best medical care that is possible in the air.

When medical events occur in flight, there is always a question of whether the flight needs to be diverted. Flight diversion is very expensive for airlines.

Airlines will benefit from the app because they will have a physician who is more capable because of the app to help with the emergency. The physician will have more information at hand. This will result in better decision making for the patient including a better decision about whether flight diversion is necessary or not. The app will not get rid of flight diversions but it will help ensure that any diversion is done with good reason.

TP: What was the impetus behind airRx?

RB: It was my experiences as both a physician volunteer on a flight and especially as being a passenger myself who experienced a medical situation while in flight. While in flight over the Mediterranean, I woke from a nap lightheaded and disoriented, which are possible symptoms of several medical conditions. I found it very hard to articulate my distress to the flight crew. The physician who came to help me was at a loss as to how to best evaluate my condition. It turned out fine, but I realized there was a need for a resource physicians can consult quickly and easily. When I spoke to my colleagues in flight medicine, we realized a smartphone app was the best solution.

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What we gleaned is that doctors, while extremely trained in myriad ways, are often specialized and perhaps ill-equipped to meet any medical demand that might pop up in one of the most constraining of environments.

Dr. Paulo Magalhães Alves, who also helped develop the app, explains further, via press release: “There is no formal physician training in medical school in handling in-flight medical events. And because many physician volunteers work in subspecialty areas in which they do not regularly see emergent events, they may lack knowledge regarding a specific event. It is essential that every physician who answers the call to assist have immediate access to this information in real time on the plane to better understand this unique environment, the available resources and limitations, facilitating communication with aircrew and ground-based medical support providers as needed.”

A medical emergency mid-flight is stressful and, by nature of its setting, is extremely restricting in how you might be able to treat any number of cases.

The app helps meet those demands that might be outside the scope of your respective specialization.

The app offers “access to 23 scenarios of the most common medical emergencies in-flight” and an app that still works even when your smartphone is in airplane mode.


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