Telemedicine helps deliver medical care to under-served populations. We tend to think of under-developed regions or sparsely populated rural areas as being the primary targets for these services, but there’s another population that can benefit from remote access to medical information: crew members on commercial freighters. It turns out that one out of every five ships is forced to divert for medical reasons every year, costing an average of $180,000 per incident.

Martek Marine has worked with the UK National Health Service (NHS), which has led to the development of a new telemedicine service. iVital is a complete system that connects via the Cloud to clinical specialists on shore. The equipment includes medically-certified wireless sensors: a blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter, and digital thermometer as well as an optional ECG monitor and glucometer. The system also includes a tablet to help communicate with onshore clinicians who will diagnose and provide guidance to manage the illness or injury.

This sort of system could save lives and money for shipping companies. Crew members will get faster, better treatment, and costly diversions can be avoided when they are not necessary. According to Martek Marine, up to 20% of the diversions could be eliminated, saving nearly $170 million a year. This is just one more example of how digital health technology can improve outcomes while lowering healthcare costs and related expenses, even when thousands of miles out in the ocean.