Friday, October 25, 2013

Impressions from the Air Medical Transport Conference

We made it home safely from AMTC. This was my first time going in over a decade, and to be honest I only went because I wanted to be a presenter, and get some exposure for my business, AMRM Training Solutions. My first impression upon entering the exhibit hall was that it was smaller than I remember it from Orlando, but that may be due to the fact that the last "show" I went to was the Heli-Expo in Houston - and it is a monster. Still, there were plenty of exhibits to see, lots of vendors, and lots of shiny new helicopters to drool over. We even got to see the new split-personality helicopter that will soon be flying sick people in West Virginia and Ohio.

Yes, there are two paint schemes on one brand new Eurocopter EC-130, the newer, fatter, tour-friendly version of the Astar. You could probably walk around the patient in that cabin, but it still only has one motor and is restricted to visual-flight-rules ( no flying in the clouds). This machine is a cooperative risk/reward sharing venture between two organizations. It is more Aerospatiale (French)  than MBB (Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm), with it's Starflex rotorhead (smoother in turbulence than the rigid system on the German machines) and it's Fenestron "Fan-in-Fin" shrouded tail-rotor. Pilots love it.

I saw Rick Hassman, an old friend and boss from my days with CareForce in Columbia SC,  Rick is now a VP with AvstarMedia, one of the two main computer-based-training suppliers we in HEMS use. He is a genuinely decent and honest man, and AvstarMedia was lucky to get him. It was nice to see him smiling and well. I think he is drinking from the fountain of youth.

We also stopped by the booth housing RSQ911 Solutions. A great lady and RN named Kelly Hawsey is involved with this organization, and it was nice to catch up with her and hear some history of the old, original "LifeReach" program that served Columbia, South Carolina so well for so many years. They were one of the first programs that had to deal with competition with another HEMS provider setting up shop "right-next-door," and they did it with grace and professionalism.

RSQ911 Solutions provides a customized customer satisfaction survey for air and ground ambulance providers to collect feedback on their crew interactions.  emsCharts has a collaborative partnership that connects our web-based patient data collection and incident reporting to RSQ911 Solutions' online survey tool. The streamlined functionality allows EMS agencies to easily connect a particular patient event to survey feedback from hospital personnel and other EMS on the scene, as well as feedback from patients and their families.

This was the year of the T-Shirt at AMTC. It seemed as if everyone except EMSFLIGHTCREW was giving them away. We have enough T-Shirts to star as Gunny Highway now - but no coozies. One savvy media company held a "put your shirt on now for a chance to win $500" event, and red shirts were everywhere. Nice work...

Golden Hour Data Systems sponsored a free beer-fest each night at a local disco-joint, and attendees took full advantage. Thank you! There were a whole bunch of blue ink-blots on the inside of right-wrists each morning, and some red eyes to go along with them. People got to let their hair down, let loose, and bond. I suspect the bonding was both vertical and horizontal - it's a conference after all.

I attended a class on high altitude EMS and rescue operations put on by a fellow who I totally misjudged on first impression. I sat down thinking he was a wacker from the sticks; I left his class thinking he was a Superman, Super-medic, and life-saving Angel for volunteering to spend two weeks on Denali at 14,000 feet living in a tent and taking care of sick people. That class was a high point of the conference.

Another high point was getting to hear General David Petraeus speak to the conference as Keynote Speaker. It was a little disappointing to find out, at literally the last second, that he wouldn't actually be "there" and instead would attend via video link. But, had he been on stage, I would have been looking at one of the two jumbo-screens anyway, so it worked fine. He spoke at length, and with humor and wisdom in equal parts. He could see us, and hear us, and took questions from the audience. I am glad the bullet that went through him during a training accident went through the "a"  in Petraeus vice the A in Army... What a coincidence that the surgeon who saved his life at Vanderbilt was named Frist and would go on to fame of his own.

                                                        "The business end of a Bell"

As I said, I went to promote my business, AMRM Training Solutions, thinking that being a speaker and letting people experience my product first hand would be better (and cheaper) than renting a booth and telling them how great it is. I got the idea to be a speaker from an email that was sent out early last year asking pilots to volunteer to speak at AMTC. I did and it was a great experience, with only one extremely sad and uncomfortable moment. During my presentation, I did a case study on a fatal accident, linking it to the hazardous attitude known as get-home-itis. When I finished a fellow walked up to me, thanked me, then asked if I knew that the same program had lost another aircraft and crew that morning. Lord have Mercy. I didn't know and regret terribly choosing that crash to study - unfortunately there are plenty.

 Even if you aren't interested in promoting a business, or speaking on a topic that interests you, I encourage you to attend the conference next year in Nashville if you work in HEMS.

I know a lot of HEMS pilots think AMTC is a waste of time; and primarily for clinicians. The fact is that it is our fault for not taking our place at the table. Only 17% of attendees this year were pilots, and if we won't represent ourselves who will - a non-pilot?. Anyone who has been around HEMS for awhile has something to offer, and would enjoy the experience. I watched a young communications-specialist who was as nervous as could be struggle through a class on communications. It was a good experience for him, and I learned something. I laughed out loud when Rex Alexander told me the story of the speaker he was coaching who decided at the last minute, after being "mic'ed up" for his class, that he had to use the toilet. He did so "hot mic," and returned to a room with the ice broken. Speakers receive a free night's lodging and a free registration to the show, so you get three days of edutainment for one hour of speaking. And you get to enjoy the sense of giving something back to your industry. If you don't like the way HEMS is now, here's your chance to change it.

On the last night of the show, we were having beers in the Hilton's beach side bar and grill. There are fire rings outside with seating.  I noticed a group of conference-folks laughing and having a good time, and thought to myself how that picture would nicely sum up the experience of attending a conference in Virginia Beach. I finally screwed up the courage to go out and introduce myself and ask for permission to take their picture. The ladies exclaimed, "Dan - we were in your class and it was the best class in the conference!" followed up with "yes, you can take our picture." So we laughed and I said, "don't look at me, just act like you are talking and having fun. (something I learned recently from Keith Colodny who owns Precision Aerial Filmworks and is a flight medic)

                                  This is what happens at AMTC after the days "work" is done...

I understand that if a business comes away from a conference with one or two new customers, things went well. I had a great meeting with a safety-manager from a flagship program in the northeast, and hope to spend time with them next spring. My old chief-pilot, Colin Henry, watched my presentation, and told me plainly the next morning that I will be speaking at MedFlight of Ohio next year.. So my trip was productive, and informative, and fun.

I hope to see you next year in Nashville and...

Safe Flights.

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