J Korean Med Assoc.  2020 Apr;63(4):193-198. 10.5124/jkma.2020.63.4.193.

Introduction and contemporary condition of helicopter emergency medical services in Korea


As most medical facilities in Korea have been concentrated in large cities, the need to improve emergency medical services in islands and mountainous areas has emerged. Consequently, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and local governments have introduced emergency medical helicopters (known as helicopter ambulances or air ambulances) with doctors in medically vulnerable areas. Having been introduced in two regions in 2011, air ambulances are operational in seven regions as of the end of 2019. The flight time is from sunrise to sunset, except in Gyeonggi province, which is open all day. Although the criteria for transport vary depending on whether an ambulance is available for operation, it is basically intended for emergency critical diseases, such as severe trauma, stroke, and acute myocardial infarction. From September 23, 2011 to December 31, 2018, a total of 10,367 transfer requests were received, which included 534 (5.2%) interruptions, 2,657 (25.6%) rejects, and 7,176 (69.2%) transfers. A total of 7,209 patients were transferred during this period, which included 1,693 (23.5%) patients of severe trauma, 1,149 (15.9%) patients of stroke, 802 (11.1%) patients of acute myocardial infarction, and 3,565 (49.5%) patients suffering from other emergency diseases. Some economic research on air ambulances in Korea has been reported to be cost-effective, but additional research should be performed. In the future, it is necessary to widen the area of operation of air ambulances and find alternative means of transporting patients during unfavorable conditions such as night or bad weather.


Air ambulances; Emergency medical services; Rural health services; 응급헬기; 응급의료서비스; 취약지 보건의료
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