Cathy Lizak
Contributing writer
updated on 03/26/2021

Do Doctor's Discharge Orders Affect Patient Transport Options

How discharges affect pricing and availability of transport


Your mom is ready to be discharged from a hospital and you are searching for a company to transport her to another state. Did you know that the type of discharge order her doctor gives could affect which transport options are available for her?

When a patient is discharged from a medical facility such as a hospital, rehab center, or nursing home, the attending physician will either give a “Medical” discharge or a “General” discharge. The difference between these two types of discharges can limit your choices of patient transport.

What is the Difference Between a Medical Discharge and a General Discharge?

When a doctor gives a patient a medical discharge, the doctor has determined that the patient needs to be under the continued care of another doctor. They, therefore, expect another doctor to receive the patient at another medical facility. The patient’s attending physician has concluded that the patient is not well enough to be discharged to their own care.

If the attending physician gives a medical discharge, they also expect to turn over care to the transport company’s doctor. In this way, the sending doctor can be relieved of legal responsibility to treat the patient by the transport doctor. The patient then becomes the responsibility of the transport doctor until the transport doctor turns over care to a doctor at the receiving medical facility.

If the attending doctor gives a general discharge, they are releasing the patient to their own care. In this case, the doctor has determined that the patient does not require being under the care of either a transport doctor or a doctor at a receiving facility. With a general discharge, the attending physician is also not turning over legal responsibility to a transport doctor.

How Does the Type of Discharge Affect the Price of Transport?

The cost of a medical transport from Florida to New York can vary from as little as $5,000 to as much as $20,000 or more. Non-medical ground transport can vary from $5,000 to $10,000, Airline medical escort can cost between $6,000 and $10,000. Ground ambulance transport can be two to three times the cost of non-medical ground transport. Air ambulance can cost from $15,000 to $25,000.

The lower-cost, non-medical ground transportation and airline medical escort options are not available to patients that are given medical discharges. Therefore, a medical discharge can double or triple the cost of transporting a patient, depending on their medical needs. Call Global Air Ambulance at 800-948-1220 and our case managers will advise you on all transport options that are available for your patient.

If the Patient’s Doctor will not Give the Patient a Discharge, Can I Transport the Patient Against Medical Advice (AMA)?

Global Air Ambulance will sometimes transport your patient if you check the patient out of a medical facility against medical advice. However, we must first determine that your patient is safe to transport and your transport options and destinations will be limited.

If the transport Medical Director determines that your patient is safe to transport, he will assume legal responsibility for the patient during transport. However, we will need to turn over care to another doctor at the end of the transport. This typically requires us to transport the patient to a receiving facility whose doctor has accepted the patient and whose facility has accepted the patient and has determined that a bed is available.

Global Air Ambulance cannot take a patient out of a facility AMA and then deliver the patient to a residence or other location that has no person legally and medically responsible for their care. We cannot override the attending physician’s medical assessment. However, the receiving physician of another facility may accept responsibility for your patient and we can then turn over care to this accepting physician.

If you have further questions regarding how your patient’s discharge orders may affect their transport options, please call Global Air Ambulance at 800-948-1220. We would be happy to assist you.

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