According to Ronald Spithout, Managing Director of VIKAND OneHealth, the industry can assure proactive health care and provide a better environment onboard by utilizing the existing digital/medical technology and innovation.
onald emphasizes the significance of switching from reactive to proactive health care, noting that the marine sector spends billions of dollars annually on crew health problems and injuries. Because they fail their PEMEs, thousands of seafarers lose their jobs. He emphasizes that this alone is leading to a shortage of qualified officers and crew, which would ultimately result in increased expenses and risk.
SAFETY4SEA: What are your key priorities over the next five years as Managing Director of VIKAND OneHealth?
Ronald Spithout: My first priority is to use every available opportunity to educate and communicate to the maritime industry about “crew asset management,” which means keeping crew healthy rather than only treating them when they get ill. My next goal is to use all available digital/medical technology and innovation to help the industry break out of this paradigm of reactive health care, which is unsustainable. Our goal is to contribute significantly to the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of the 1.9 million crew members currently working at sea. Well over 10,000 of these seafarers will lose their job due to some form of chronic illness. We want to help create a more sustainable shipping industry by reducing the risk profile for shipowners and operators, as well as for insurers and P&I clubs.
S4S: With respect to seafarer health, what observations have you made and what lessons have you learned?
R.Sp.: The main lesson is that we need to apply the same kind of long-term thinking to crew members as we do any other valuable ship asset. The hardworking men and women who make the maritime industry possible require care, protection, and investment if they’re going to perform their best day after day. Our industry spends billions of dollars a year reacting to crew health issues and injuries, and thousands of seafarers lose their jobs because they don’t pass their Pre-Employment Medical Examinations (PEMEs). This alone is creating a shortage of trained officers and crew members, which will ultimately lead to even more costs and risk. After more than a decade delivering healthcare solutions at sea, VIKAND knows that those reactive dollars would be better spent on proactive programs and policies designed to keep maritime workers healthy, happy, and safe.
S4S: Where does seafarer access to medical care stand today and what can we do better moving forward?
R.Sp.: Access to medical care for seafarers is both feasible and affordable. First, there is no technical reason anymore that prohibits proper health care at sea. Satellite connectivity, efficient data transfers, cloud environments, widespread access to powerful handheld devices, a large software industry in tune with progressive medical insights – all of this has made delivering and receiving remote health care easier than ever. Second, the current practice of reactive medical care is quite costly for the maritime industry. If we spend a fraction of that money investing in crew through proactive, real-time care, it will generate and preserve real value.
S4S: Do you have any initiatives supporting wellness at sea that you would like to share?
R.Sp.: Yes. VIKAND’s new OneHealth by VIKAND brings a holistic approach to crew welfare, addressing the physical and mental aspects of seafarer health, as well as the onboard environment. Specifically, I’d like to highlight three OneHealth by VIKAND’s innovations.
First, each ship we serve gets a dedicated shoreside medical professional with real maritime experience. Every month, this person connects via face-to-face video chat with vessel command to review topics such as crew health and wellness, illness and injury rates, environmental concerns, medication and medical supplies, training needs and more. Based on these calls, the shoreside team can recommend evidence-based, cost-effective wellness measures that are easy to implement. Beyond this, the medical team is available for video consultations with every crew member. Over time, they develop a relationship with the crew built on trust, familiarity, and continuity, so they can better serve their individual healthcare needs.
Second, OneHealth by VIKAND addresses the onboard environment. Healthier vessel environments are proven to have a positive impact on physical and mental fitness, as well as crew performance. Nutrition, clean air, sleep, exercise, lighting and more play a role in daily wellness, which is why OneHealth by VIKAND offers innovative air sanitation systems, bio-lighting, wearable sleep monitoring, exercise, and nutrition guidance, and more. A fitter crew is less prone to errors, accidents, and injuries, which means fewer medical claims and – over time – healthier P&Ls and reduction in risk.
And finally, as early adopters of new technology, VIKAND can actively measure the effectiveness of its programs and services. For example, we can equip portions of a fleet with air sanitation systems or bio-lighting and measure their effectiveness over time against a control group. With OneHealth by VIKAND, we have some great opportunities to gather data and insights to support research, improve our services and establish best practices that will benefit the entire maritime industry for decades to come.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes discussion purposes only.