airRx, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing emergency care on commercial airline flights, has launched airRx, the only smartphone app developed to prepare and help physicians volunteering to assist fellow travelers experiencing medical emergencies while in flight. Physicians of all specialties who volunteer to help a sick traveler can use airRx to access 23 scenarios of the most common medical emergencies, with concise treatment algorithms and quick reference information to help evaluate and treat the patient. airRx is available for full use in Airplane mode after being downloaded from either the Apple App Store or Android Google Play.
“When emergency medical care is needed on a flight, a call goes out from the cabin crew to see if a health professional is present and willing to help,” explained Dr. Raymond E. Bertino, Clinical Professor of Radiology and Surgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, who led a development team including experts in aerospace medicine, emergency medicine, ground support for in-flight emergencies and a former medical director of a major airline. “But when health professionals respond, they must provide care in an unfamiliar setting with little equipment or assistance, and often to treat a condition outside their usual scope of practice.”
airRx is specifically aimed at the health professional who does not treat acute medical events on a routine basis. It has background information about equipment and medications available, how the cabin crew can help, what the roles of the cabin and flight crews are, how ground medical support is integrated into these events and the medicolegal aspects of volunteering to assist.
“Across the world, 150-200 medical events occur every day on airplanes,” added Dr. Claude Thibeault, medical advisor to the International Air Transport Association, former president of the Aerospace Medical Association and former medical director for Air Canada. “Planes are one of the most challenging places in which to treat a medical event due to limited equipment and supplies, lack of space and the time lag to reach medical help on the ground.”
“There is no formal physician training in medical school in handling in-flight medical events,” explained Dr. Paulo Magalhães Alves, 2016 recipient of the Harry G. Moseley Award for his contributions to flight safety, and global medical director of Aviation Health for MedAire, a company providing ground-based medical advice globally to many commercial airlines. “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.”
airRx is designed to bridge the knowledge gap, providing a real-time checklist and quick reference handbook to improve the way that emergent medical situations in the air are addressed. It includes information on medications and medical equipment that are available on many flights throughout the world. airRx is installed on the phone and does not require an Internet connection in order to access its information. It gives the volunteer physician a valuable resource to help address medical emergencies that occur in-flight.