The evolution of patient transport – from hammock to epishuttle

“Emergency room on wheels” as some may say, patient transport vehicles as we know them today have come a long way since the first representation of one. Throughout history, Ill patients’ choice was mostly limited to a simple hammock or to a chair carried on two wooden beams, depending on the observed century. A big Innovation at the time was a four-wheel carriage dragged by a few horses – an equivalent of a modern-day ambulance vehicle.

The evolution of patient transport did not come over night. It took many years and ideas to come to this stage where we are now. But regardless of the first simple and crude designs and lack of key functionalities, all the vehicles had one core purpose – a transfer of ill patients to a place for care and treatment, just like today.

Except today, patient transport implies the possibility of fast and safe transport while care and treatment can be performed onsite and even in the air.

See here how to safely transport infectious patients.


Back in the day, the means of patient transport were scarce or even non-existing in some parts of the world. Some records suggest the Anglo Saxons used hammock-based cart as a primitive transport vehicle for the ill.

Significant progress in patient transport was made during the outbreak of the bubonic plague in London in 1665. To stop the spread and isolate the ill as quickly as possible, the London municipality employed sedan chairs to carry the patients home or to a hospital. This transport system is known as Great Britain’s first attempt at an organised ambulance service.

Fast forward to 18th century Edinburgh, sedan chairs (sometimes called street chairs) were used to transport patients to the hospital, whereas in London, the original hospital ambulance service debuted in the newspapers as a “chair and horse in case of accidents”. As the name suggests, this vehicle was most likely a sedan chair attached to a horse.


There was always a connection between warfare and patient transport. Since the battlefield was the place most overcrowded with patients, there was a great need for an efficient transport system. 

Dominique-Jean Larrey was a Frenchman who gave the world the ambulance as we know it today. He developed two types of transport carriages: a two-wheeled model for level terrain and a four-wheeled version for uneven ground.

When Cholera hit Great Britain, Manchester was the first of many who used public funds to purchase a special van for cholera victims to be transported to a hospital. The Britons called it the “Invalid carriage”.

It represents Europe’s first modern road ambulance with the possibility to load the patient while lying flat on the bed. The back opened on hidden hinges while the bed was rolled inside by rollers built into the floor of the cab. There was even a side door allowing the attendant to sit inside with the patient much like today’s transport vehicles.

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In today’s time, one cannot even imagine not being transported to a hospital when needed. Be it with a road ambulance, a taxi, or an air ambulance.

Big advancements in technology allowed substantial innovations in patient transport. Looking at present-day ambulance vehicles it is obvious that they were made for emergency procedures. They are equipped with lifesaving technology and there are paramedics onboard trained to provide onsite treatments during and transport.

Safe and easy transport is possible even in the case of a highly infectious patient. When cholera or Ebola hotspots appeared in the past, there were no specially designed medical units like EpiShuttle. The patient could infect everyone around and could not even get to a hospital for care and treatment.

Today’s innovations in patient transport are without a doubt – lifesaving innovations. EpiGuard plays a big role in patient transport developing one of the safest options for the transport of infected patients – the EpiShuttle.

Designed by industry experts, the single-patient isolation unit is a huge breakthrough in medical transport technology with one sole purpose – safe patient transport.

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