True costs of air medical vs. ground ambulance systems

Air Med J. 1993 Aug;12(8):262-8. doi: 10.1016/S1067-991X(05)80311-6.


The economic model created in this paper replaces the existing University of Massachusetts Medical Center's New England Life Flight (NELF) helicopter ambulance service with a ground ambulance system to investigate comparative costs. The model is based on a less than 30-minute response time to the patient, similar medical team staffing and equal service area. The annual budgetary cost of the replacement ground network is $3,804,000 while the helicopter ambulance costs are $1,686,500 (based on 1991 dollars). The cost per patient transported is $4,475 for the ground system and $2,811 for the helicopter system. The comparison finds that the commonly held notion that condemns helicopters as an excessively expensive technology for patient transport is incorrect. Future research to address intermediate alternatives using similar analytical technology assessment techniques is recommended.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft / economics*
  • Ambulances / economics*
  • Cost Allocation / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics*
  • Massachusetts
  • Models, Econometric
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical / statistics & numerical data