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Caring for a ship’s most

important asset Telemedicine: Bringing medical care to crews onboard

38 Marine Log // June 2017 Yearbook

at sea. Today a private general or specialist physician can carry out a virtual visual examination of the crewman onboard a ship, in real time. In addition to the ability to capture measurements of basic health metrics such as blood pressure/glucose and

This seamless care promotes more efficient treatment and overall health for the seafare electrocardiogram readings, the remote physician can conduct more sophisticated tests such as an ophthalmoscope examination of the retina and ultrasound imaging—all by using devices attached to a smart phone. The medical devices are becoming more

affordable for commercial vessels and are increasingly found onboard newer built vessels. A growing number of hospitals and private medical concierges are devoting considerable resources and sophisticated equipment to bridge the distance between ship and shore. Recently, Yale University’s School of Medicine’s R. Lefkowitz, MD and colleagues analyzed 3,921 shipboard injury and illness incidents during a three-year period. The Yale researchers used data on seafarers aged 18 to 80 working on 1,322 vessels, exclusively compiled by Future Care Inc., a provider of maritime medical services managing seafarers’ health globally. The article highlights the frequency of illness (over twice as many as shipboard injuries) as the predominate cause of seafarer work restriction and lost time. One of the most difficult issues this poses for the shipowner and crew is that frequently ships are inadequately manned for substitutions. “If a crewmember is ill or injured and

Photo Credit: Future Care, Inc.


n the not too distant past, from a medical stand point, a crewmember at sea was very much alone. When injured or taken ill, the hapless seafarer was forced to rely on the ministrations of the ship’s medical officer, whose training often was minimal. The crewmember was unable to obtain a physician’s advice until he managed to reach the shore. With the advent of telemedicine, the seafarer began to benefit from remote diagnosis and treatment recommendation. The early use of telemedicine in the maritime community generally involved government-sponsored public health networks, frequently dealing only in emergency situations. Diagnosis was based primarily on subjective criteria relayed to the shore-based physician, who responded as best as possible. Often the advice was to remove the crewman immediately from the ship for shoreside treatment—an expensive proposition. Most recently, the maritime community is coming to realize the incomparable benefits medical technology brings to healthcare

By Lindsay Malen of Future Care, Inc.

Marine Log June 2017  
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