The Digi+Doc service can be used to provide immediate phone and video medical consults for ships at sea, allowing Digi+Doc subscribers, including current shipowners such as Maersk Line, to have immediate access to a team of approximately 550 physicians and specialists at the GWU Medical Faculty.
In 2012 Maersk Line and Diginonymous announced that they had established “a strategic working relationship” to support the development of IT solutions for shipping, including applications for telemedicine, crew calling, CCTV and piracy interdiction.
Digi+Doc communications systems are based on the DigiGone software platform, which offers encrypted video and audio conferencing, video streaming, Voice over IP (VoIP), IM Chat and file transfer, optimised for maritime satellite channels.
The DigiGone software can be installed on most PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones and can work over VSAT, Inmarsat, Thuraya IP and other networks. The partners claim that satellite airtime costs for using the service come in much lower than commercial teleconferencing services such as Skype.
In addition to teleconferencing, Diginonymous’ Remote Viewing Station (RVS) for Telemedicine offers access to medical services and transmission of medical data.
The kit facilitates the real-time transmission of data from the ship to a remote clinician through instruments such as a handheld electrocardiogram device, blood pressure machine, electronic thermometer and microscope camera.
“Digi+Doc is an ideal solution for shipowners to meet the new international regulations for crew health and medical treatment required by MLC 2006,” said George Spohn, Diginonymous’ senior vice president for global sales and marketing.
“By offering real-time teleconferencing with experienced emergency physicians, many crew illnesses and injuries can be treated onboard without an expensive helicopter evacuation or port diversion.”
Title 4 of MLC 2006 requires that health protection and medical care for seafarers must be as compatible as possible to that which is generally available to workers ashore, including prompt access to the necessary medicines, medical equipment and facilities for diagnosis and treatment, and to medical information and expertise.
Having been ratified by more than 30 member states reflecting more than 33 per cent of world gross tonnage, MLC 2006 comes into effect August 20, 2013, and applies to more than 1.2 million seafarers, including those working on ships whose flag states have not ratified the Convention.
“There is general agreement among emergency clinicians that seeing the patient greatly improves correct diagnosis and treatment for illnesses or injuries,” said James Betz, program manager, Maritime Medical Access.
“The combination of real-time diagnostic sensor readings with a visual inspection of the patient can reduce misdiagnosis or over-triaging a problem, increasing the likelihood that the vessel will stay on course and not have to divert for a medical emergency. With follow-up teleconferences, the remote physician can determine when the crew member can safely resume work.”
Mr Spohn notes that the DigiGone video software and hardware kit can also be used for other shipboard applications, such as troubleshooting equipment failures and real-time anti-piracy security, in addition to telemedicine.
To begin using the Digi+Doc services, users need to install the DigiGone software on a shipboard computer, and sign up for an annual subscription to the Maritime Medical Access Service at GWU.
“The entire cost of the system, including software licence, medical access subscription and satellite airtime, is far less than the expense of a single incident requiring medical evacuation or port diversion,” said Mr Spohn.
“In addition, the telemedicine service can reduce time off for a sick or injured crew member, and will provide important documentation in the event of a crew claim.”