In this age and technology ships should have evidence based hospital like diagnostics. But what are the problems that we face at sea?

  • Longer voyages and short port stays;
  • Lost time due to speeding up, slowdown and extended anchorage due to illness are expensive;
  • Lack of telehealth facility;
  • MLC requires shore-like care 24/7 on board.

Today we have 1.5 million seafarers, 60,000 vessels, and around 15 TMAS public/private. Last year, 20,000 seafarers were assisted, of which 2,000 medevac’d. Most ships have only a basic first aid kit, hardly any ship have approved vital signs monitors, there are no crew wellness programs, while most crew report verbally to their TMAS agencies.

Who is responsible for seafarers’ health?

  • The seafarer;
  • The company;
  • The ship;
  • The TMAS;
  •  The flag state;
  • The MLC.

We also have a lot of regulations to comply, there is IMHA, STCW, ILO/MLC. As for the latter, it has a set of rules, requiring ships to have shore like medical facilities.

But, what do seafarers want? They wonder if in this digital age, they have to flip through the ship master’s medical aid book. As for sailing masters, they think that they would take confident decisions if they had some kind of medical diagnostic tool. Crew is also more comfortable knowing there is some kind of shore like facility and if they are not well they can always talk to their doctor or the company doctor face to face. The captain feels far more confident  if he had a telemedic kit on board so he can take informed decisions based on TMAS advisories, whether to divert the ship or to ask for a MEDEVAC.

While at sea, we all know that accidents do happen, people do fall sick, you cannot stop that. But are you prepared? According to a study by IMHA a few years back, 1 in 5 ships diverted and it is estimated that the industry could save around $168m if ships had some kind of telemedicine solution.

Why are vital signs very important?

They generally tell you how well the crew is, they also determine the treatment and protocol that has to be followed. They very accurately determine the physical condition of the body and how it is reacting to various other parameters. The five vital signs are:

  1. Temperature;
  2. Blood pressure;
  3. Blood sugar;
  4.  SpO2;
  5. ECG.

It is time for creating a crew health digital passport and we should look at a seafarer’s continuous wellness record emphasized Mr. Kumar.

He pointed out that telemedicine and telehealth are two different concepts. All telehealth might be telemedicine, but all telemedicine is not telehealth. Telehealth goes beyond telemedicine in the sense that it takes care of education, advisories, monitoring and a lot of other things.

It is not a solution if it is not affordable, accessible & accountable

For this reason, we came up with the uberization concept for maritime healthcare and when ships are going smart, why not health? Connectivity at sea has come a long way since the age of the Morse code. Today high speed internet on ships is a reality, very soon most ships will have office-like internet on board. With digital ships & new technologies, disruptive innovations are just a matter of time. Affordable digital telehealth solution is one such disruptive innovation which will greatly enhance crew wellness and will be demanded by the crew.

What it Evitalz?

Evitalz is a telehealth kit, combining digital and medical diagnostic devices with a smart “vital connect” APP on an android tablet pc that can be kept on board the ships. Using the APP with the medical devices the ship can record vital signs and send it anywhere they want. This kit measures:

  • Temperature;
  • Blood pressure;
  • SpO2;
  • ECG;
  •  Multi-blood parametres.

It also includes rapid tests to immediately identify if a person suffering with high fever for 3-4 days has dengue fever or malaria, or somebody who complains of chest pain is really going through a heart attack or not. However, what is very important is for the doctor to talk to the patient, to see and ascertain the condition, before he can actually diagnose anything. Evitalz “vital connect” APP allows for secure video consultation with  approved or authorized doctors or a TMAS center.

These devices, if used properly, can save ship owners time and money from visiting shore doctors. Less medical insurance claims mean lower premium. The crew is also happy that their company cares for them.

The kit sends the diagnosed data in an encrypted format to a secure web server using the ships satcom. The medical record repository where the data is stored has multilayer security and can be accessed only by authorized users using a 3 way authentication procedure. Once it goes to our secure cloud, it is accessible by TMAS, company doctors or a personal physician as can be authorized by the company.

Above text is an edited version of Mr. Nanda Kumar’s presentation during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA Singapore Forum.

View his presentation herebelow

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.

About Nanda Kumar Krishnan, CEO & Founder, Evitalz Information Management

With a career starting from 1981 in offshore drilling Mr. Kumar has worked in diverse situations controlling air traffic and drilling operations on drill ships to being traditional Radio Officer on Merchant  ships till 1990. He later diversified to the deck side and rose up to the rank of a Chief Officer. A marine electronics and satellite communication specialist started his entrepreneurial career in 1995 starting one of India’s first wood fired pizza home delivery service called Chef Express.

At the same time he founded the Indian Maritime College for improving maritime education in India with a concept of “training through simulators” which is approved by Govt of India for many STCW courses. He was an examiner for UK GMDSS exams in India for UK DTI.

Elektronik Lab was founded in 2005 which today is one of the largest system integrator and distributors for satellite communication & navigation equipment working in the maritime, aero and land mobile segments. Elektronik Lab has been in the forefront of technology in this region and few of his companies claim to fame are:

  • Indian Ocean Tsunami warning system deployment, retrieval & maintenance
  • Tracking of fishing boats in Gujarat to prevent 26/11 type attacks
  • Military Aircraft tracking
  • Satellite based soldier tracking
  • Ship Security Alert and more…