Pitfalls of Common Event Medical Solutions

This is the third guest post from Sarah Rawley, who produces national mountain bike events, races pro in the enduro circuit, and writes about the latest trends and events in the industry. 


As the event director, you are constantly weighing the pros and cons of different elements for your event, all the while keeping your budget and bottom line in mind. In our previous blog, Part 2: Common Solutions to Providing Medical Services at Your Event, we went over common plans for an event. Now we will go over variables to keep in mind when selecting the best solution for your next event.

Volunteers Cost More Than You Expect
Volunteers are instrumental at every event, however they may actually cost more than you realize. Volunteers need supplies, coordination and insurance.

Placing even the best-intentioned volunteer on your course does not guaranteed they will have the necessary supplies, training, certifications, or professional licensing to provide the specific medical care your event will need. Without the proper tools and medical equipment, volunteers can be rather limited in their ability to offer effective care and treatment.

As an event director you should take the time to conduct a proper interview to verify the extent of their training, knowledge and ability to care for your participants. Most likely you will need to provide (aka… beg, borrow, steal) the medical supplies, hoping you procured the right “band-aides,” and distribute them throughout the event. Now you have to coordinate the best placement of all volunteers, to ensure they are where they need to be, when they need to be.

In line with this topic is the plan for legal disposal of blood-soaked bandages and documentation of the care that is provided. Who is responsible for this and will take care of it safely?

Volunteers may also be liable. Good Samaritan rules exempt licensed health care providers from liability when there is no compensation or obligation to provide care. When the volunteer agrees to serve your event in exchange for lunch, a t-shirt and/or goodie bag, this pre-determined arrangement may exclude them from Good Samaritan protection. Even off-duty medical doctors (MDs) should contact their malpractice provider before volunteering.

Does your event carry insurance that will cover medical costs and/or lost wages if the volunteer suffers an injury? This may not be limited to physical trauma, but can include blood-borne disease transmitted while irrigating or bandaging wounds.

Local 911 Can Be Confusing and Stressful During an Emergency
Imagine yourself on the day of your event addressing a multitude of standard stressors, and now factor in having to describe on the phone where exactly your emergency is, how the ambulance can access this location, what is wrong with the patient and how you can offer some sort of care until the ambulance arrives. Although an ambulance is only a phone call away and the 911 system is accustomed to handling dynamic and stressful situations, your role does not stop when you make that call. Emergency dispatchers will have many questions to determine the location and condition of the patient and it’s your responsibility to have that info ready to go. 

One Ambulance at the Finish Line May Not Be Enough
Hiring an ambulance to be on-site at your event can drastically reduce the response time for your participants. Is it enough to have one stationed at the finish line or the event headquarters?

Sometimes you are paying the ambulance to be at your event, but they may not always transport the patient to the hospital. They may instead summon an additional transport ambulance, at the patient’s cost. Be sure to know exactly what this hired help will provide and if you are receiving ALS (Advanced Life Support) or BLS (Basic Life Support) staff (there is a difference).

You may also want to consider the knowledge of their staff. In some instances, your dedicated ambulance could be staffed with healthcare providers having little to no knowledge of sports injuries or injury patterns consistent with your sport. Costs for these services can also add up quickly, ranging from $100 to $200 per hour, per ambulance.

You Get What You Pay For
Although paying for specialized event medical companies may seem like an additional budget line item that you may be able to do without, consider the pre- and post-event responsibilities that accompany your event medical plan. Does your current plan cover you in the case of a real life-threatening emergency? Has it been tested or proven? Companies specializing in event medical services can create a more comprehensive plan for pre-event emergency management, provide properly equipped and capable staffing when and where it’s needed most, coordinate all of your emergency actions during the event, and conduct post event clean-up and debriefs.

Although it may seem unlikely a real emergency will occur and the cost for this service may feel unnecessary, especially when volunteers can be out there monitoring the event for “free,” if/when a serious injury or illness occurs that cost will seem trivial.

“We never thought serious incidents could happen in our women’s-only mountain bike race that is geared towards novices with a non-technical course. But the last two years we have had surprising accidents that if we would have not had hired medical services on-site with a comprehensive medical plan, the entire event would have been severely disrupted,” said Amy Thomas, race director of the Beti Bike Bash. “Instead, we were applauded with how well prepared and organized the event was and we continue to see it grow each year.”

This blog is not intended to be 100% conclusive, but rather a quick guide to different options that are available and factors to consider when strategizing your next event medical plan. For a more in-depth analysis of your event, contact Event Medical Solutions Unlimited, LLC at 970-658-0637.

See also: Top 5 Reasons Why You Need to Hire Emergency Management For Your Next Event  by Sarah Rawley
Sarah_Mag7About Sarah Rawley:
Raised in the Northwest, Sarah’s instinct moved her to Colorado to pursue skiing in the Rocky Mountains and a B.A. in Technical Journalism from Colorado State University along the way. It didn’t take long for the Colorado mountains to spark a passion for mountain bike racing and since then, she has been on the forefront of producing national mountain bike events and enjoys the creative side of writing about the latest trends and events in the industry. Always a racer at heart, Sarah races pro in the enduro circuit, and is the co-founder of Colorado’s first women’s only mountain bike race.