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Martek launches 'affordable' telemedicine service, claims could save industry $168m a year

Martek launches 'affordable' telemedicine service, claims could save industry $168m a year
Martek Marine has launched what it claims is the “world’s first affordable” telemedicine service, a move it claims could lead to annual industry-wide savings of up to $168m. 

The ‘iVital’ service works by providing crew members with access to medical monitoring equipment on board and 24/7 access to a team of healthcare professionals onshore.

Should a seafarer fall ill, or suffer an injury, other crew members use a dedicated tablet computer to immediately contact a doctor with an in-depth knowledge of delivering treatment at sea.

The doctor is then able to assess the stricken sailor through a video call service while calling on other crew to assist in measuring the patient’s vital signs through the provided equipment.

A decision can then be taken as to whether the ship needs to divert and/or requires a helicopter evacuation, or whether the patient is well enough for the vessel to continue on its voyage receive treatment at the next port of call.

“While telemedicine itself has been available for vessels for some time, it has always been prohibitively expensive and this is something we’ve worked really hard to rectify,” Paul Luen, ceo, Martek Marine, said.

“iVital packs all the punch of the higher priced options, just with a focus on the real necessities to ensure ship owners get all the crucial functionality of telemedicine at a fraction of its previous cost.

“The Maritime Labour Convention states that all ships carrying over 100 crew members and passengers for voyages of three days or more, must have a medical doctor on-board. However, the average merchant vessel is staffed only by a crew of between 20-25 people.”

According to a 2013 study by the International Maritime Health Association, every year one in five seagoing ships is forced to divert due to a medical emergency, with an average cost of around $180,000 per diversion.

Further research has shown almost a quarter of these diversions could have been avoided if the ship operator had a suitable telehealth system in place, meaning the industry could stand to make savings of up to $168m.

Around 1.5m seafarers are operating around 55,000 merchant vessels across the globe. Of these seafarers, around 7% each year will be evacuated from the vessel on which they are working due to ill health.

The annual cost to the industry of diversions and helicopter evacuations is estimated to be $760m, almost a quarter of which prove to be unnecessary.

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