Telemedicine Q & A with Charlie Whyman

Seafarers are the lifeblood of the shipping industry and are critical to its future sustainability. That said, are we doing enough to ensure the welfare of those at sea? Furthermore, could major improvements to crew welfare save the shipping industry millions of dollars per year?

The latest marine technology that’s just hit the market is turning inferior seafarer healthcare on its head. Called telemedicine, this groundbreaking technology is making SERIOUS waves in the maritime industry.

The leading light in this sphere is Martek Marine with their freshly-launched product called iVital™. In fact, iVital™ is so innovative, it’s just been shortlisted for two prestigious industry awards (find out more information about the awards here.)

Today, Martek’s Head of Marketing, Charlie Whyman gives us the low-down on the industry’s leading telemedicine solution & explains what sets it apart from the rest.

When was iVital™ launched?

We launched iVital™ in Q4 2016 following a 2-year development process with industry experts.

How much does iVital™ telemedicine cost?

Currently, the only maritime telemedicine solution available costs a fortune meaning it’s not a viable option for many. In contrast, iVital™ is available with NO capital investment, meaning it’s cost-effective and accessible – costing under $10 per day!

What markets is this aimed at? (offshore, commercial shipping, etc)

iVital™ is suitable for all vessels, offering particular benefits to those without a medical professional onboard. The average merchant vessel is staffed by less than 25 people, so it’s not required to have a doctor on the vessel.

Continuing a voyage when a crew member falls ill could result in conditions worsening, yet diverting, or arranging a medical evacuation could lead to significant costs and delays.

Conditions such as gastroenteritis add to the problem. Despite being responsible for a huge number of diversions & medical evacuations, patients typically recover within a few days of going ashore, making the diversions unnecessary.

iVital™ is perfect for these vessels as it offers seafarers access to clinical specialists without the need for a doctor onboard, also enabling ongoing monitoring of patients in the case of chronic conditions, or mental health concerns, which is particularly important on longer voyages.

The beauty of iVital™, which is supplied in a briefcase-sized portable pack, is that it is suitable for a ship of any type and size and can be used anywhere in the world.

24/7 access to clinical consultants via Skype and phone and a unique onboard assessment of crew member’s history and current medical status, means that crew get access to the best healthcare in the world no matter where they are and what vessel they are on.

iVital™ stands out in the market as it is the only complete telemedicine service available. Other telemedicine offerings include either the hardware/equipment, or the service, not both. iVital™ is the complete package.

These factors, combined with the attractive pricing model and the fact that no capital investment is required, open-up a huge market for iVital™ and we project large-scale, global take-up of this innovative product on vessels from super yachts to large bulk carriers.

How is iVital™ installed on board, what does the vessel require to have this system?

iVital™ is not physically installed as it’s portable. The vessel just requires a VSAT or robust 4G connection.

What does iVital™ do?

The full iVital™ kit includes monitoring devices with fully wireless sensors which are attached to crew members to record their vital signs. Devices include; a blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter, IR forehead thermometer, ECG monitor & glucometer.

These sensors mean that the pulse can be measured, as well as the oxygen saturation of the blood, the patient’s temperature, the electrical activity of the heart and the concentration of glucose in the blood too.

The system really comes into its own when a medical professional uses this data in addition to actually seeing the patient via the Skype video call. This can be especially important in the diagnosis of eye, skin and gastrointestinal conditions, or in the difficult and stressful situation where a crew member is in serious pain, or suffering with serious symptoms but those responsible onboard the vessel are unable to make an accurate diagnosis.

Who can use this system?

Anyone can use iVital™ as it’s incredibly easy to use & outstandingly intuitive. The system requires only very basic levels of training. Intelligent software prompts guide the operator throughout use and users with experience using a tablet and Skype will find the system comparatively easy to use.

How does iVital™ work?

Foolproof, the medically certified hardware and software can be used by anyone. By utilising Bluetooth, human error is significantly reduced. Wireless sensors are simply attached to the patient and vital signs data is transmitted automatically to the clinician onshore: there’s no opportunity for data to be inputted incorrectly.

The clinician then uses the data, combined with the persons medical history and one-to-one video consultation with them, to make a quick and accurate diagnosis.

Following diagnosis, the clinician can advise on the best course of action. In very serious cases, this might be a medical evacuation or diversion to a land based medical facility. Alternatively, scheduled follow-up appointments might be advised to ensure continuation of professional, specialist care whilst the patient effectively manages the condition, or works towards recovery.

What are the savings that can be made with iVital™?

According to a study by the IMHA of 23,299 commercial ships with 420,000 crew members, one in five ships are forced to divert due to crew illness each year and the average cost per ship diversion is $180,000 (€163,750).  In addition, their feedback suggests that it is possible to obtain a 20% saving to the industry from the deployment of telemedicine. If the prediction of the IMHA is correct, then this will equate to an industry saving of $168 million per year (€152 million).

Are there any orders for iVital™?

Yes, there are and the product is proving to be especially popular in the superyacht arena. The award submission kicks off an on-going and pro-active marketing campaign to gain exposure for this fantastic product within the marine industry. We look forward to sharing some excellent case studies featuring iVital™ in due course as the product is rolled out to the world’s shipping community.

Looking for further information on telemedicine? Why not download Martek’s telemedicine whitepaper, or take a look at the iVital product page.

Still not convinced? Download the telemedicine business case, or contact the Martek team today.