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Telemedicine for Sailors

Monday, 12 August 2019

Telemedicine for Sailors

Experiencing medical emergencies far from home can be extremely stressful and as many of our customers will agree, the importance of having access to professional help by satellite phone is vital.


There is now an ever-increasing range of telemedicine services that offer remote medical support. Healix International provide this service under our Yachtsman’s & Tall Ships Policies; there are experienced individuals available in their office 24/7 to help you out of any tough situations. Emergency medicine at sea is constantly evolving, with satellite communications now being an established tool to deliver advanced care remotely.

The cost of telemedicine services, up until recently, was prohibitively expensive for many sailors. Most services were originally developed for commercial shipping and the largest of private yachts. However, over the past two years, an increasing range of services at more affordable rates have been developed for leisure sailors. 

Topsail’s Yachtsman’s & Tall Ships insurances are available for a range of trips; you could be crossing the English Channel or crossing the Pacific, and you would be able to utilise this service and the emergency medical support using your satellite phone. Whilst a patch to a doctor is also possible in more developed parts of the world using a VHF or SSB radio, the most reliable link to professional medical help is obtained using a satellite connection.

Rory Gillard, a skipper on two Clipper Round the World Races, has used telemedicine on several occasions. “You’re immediately better informed, that’s the essence of it. They know what resources you have and what you’re likely to be able to achieve,” he comments.

However, a telemedicine service is no replacement for training. Carrying prescription drugs on board is something any sailor can do, but the medical professional signing the prescription must be convinced that the individual the prescription is written for is suitably trained. Therefore, nothing can replace having a medically trained crew-member on board if it is possible, as they will be able to provide advice and medication confidently. 


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