A New Approach to Referrals

Cited as the third most common barrier to care, transportation is a considerable problem for all patients. Children and adults with advanced cancers, rare illnesses, pre- and post- transplant needs, and other serious maladies, often require medical treatment they simply cannot access where they live. Those in need of free air transportation to access life-saving services and support often do not know where to turn. Without being able to access free transportation, many of these patients would be forced to forego life-saving treatment.

Fortunately, Air Care Alliance member groups throughout the United States work every day to remove this barrier. They arrange free air transportation through volunteer pilots for patients and others in need. However, charitable aviation is a little known resource, and increasing visibility among patients and healthcare professionals is a never-ending task.

Volunteer Pilot Organizations (VPOs) each have a specific mission and service region; however, they share many common needs, most notably acquiring passengers and pilot volunteers. Whether it’s hiring staff to attend healthcare conferences, sending mailers, managing email campaigns, using paid online advertising or deploying social media strategies, there are hard costs to this endeavor. VPOs spend an average of $45 – $60 for every lead they generate.

Even so, a large percent of inquiries to VPOs must be referred elsewhere. Requests that fall outside a regional organization’s service area, or not meeting other criteria, cannot be helped. For some organizations, that’s close to 90% of inquiries. This results in a poor experience for requesters – a confusing process, multiple calls, and multiple intakes. And it results in wasted resources and duplication of effort among organizations.

The Air Care Alliance has a solution.

We believe a platform approach is needed to make the connection between patients in need of free air transportation to healthcare and those who can help them get there. For the last ten years, ACA’s online referral system has generated a large volume of referrals to the charitable aviation community by guiding users to a selected list of organizations to meet their needs. It’s a good start. But by improving the process, quality, and volume of these referrals, we can bring even more value to VPOs and to the people seeking charitable services. Our latest undertaking aims to do just that.

Thanks to the contributions of our generous donors, we are making much-needed improvements to our online referral system. These improvements, along with targeted outreach efforts to promote our member groups, will deliver significant added benefit to the community.

This year, ACA will grow the impact of charitable aviation by increasing efforts to identify patients and populations in need of distant medical care and providing information about charitable aviation services. We will also work to educate pilots about service through aviation and encourage volunteerism in order to ensure enough resources are available to meet the need.

The new referral system, which is scheduled to launch by the end of January, will enable access to free air transportation through a simple online and mobile tool that directly connects those in need with a qualified organization able to help. Later phases of the project include a volunteer-specific interface to help pilots find service opportunities that match their qualifications and areas of interest. Pilots will be able to apply to multiple organizations with one application, and transferable training options are being explored for the future.

Our goal is to provide a seamless experience for patients and pilots alike, so they can have their needs met as efficiently as possible, while simultaneously providing quality patient and pilot referrals to organizations around the country. This will improve the experience and outcomes for patients, and allow individual organizations to focus on their core competencies, rather than generating leads or fielding inappropriate requests.

By investing in the common needs of VPOs, we can deliver the best and most cost-effective way for charitable aviation organizations throughout the country to generate referrals to their services. Most importantly, individuals in need will have a streamlined way to access the care they need through a single starting point.