From Horse-drawn to Hospitals on Wheels

The idea of transporting the sick and injured to a place where the patient can receive medical care is not a new one. The beginning of the ambulance story is tightly woven with the history of war. As with many other areas of medicine, the greatest innovations in patient transportation have come about to alleviate suffering on the battlefield.

The Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and many other civilizations constructed special litters to move wounded soldiers from where they had fallen to camps where they could be patched up and returned home. During the Crusades in the 11th century, the Knights Hospitaller (also known as the Knights of St. John) would treat injured soldiers in dedicated buildings for healing. These hospitals formed the foundation of modern medicine by creating a space dedicated to caring for the sick and providing treatment and recovery space. When soldiers returned from the Crusades they brought the hospital concept with them.

Quickly hospitals popped up over Europe but the next major innovation in patient care wouldn’t take place until the 18th century when ambulances (as we think of them today) were developed.