North Sea fishing cutter

Bringing mHealth to Alaska’s Fishermen

Popularized by TV shows like “Deadliest Catch,” fishing in the northern Pacific and the Bering Sea has been shown to be a dangerous occupation. Even worse, traditionally there has been no access to healthcare while at sea; anyone with medical issues had to either wait until the ship returns to port or summon a costly emergency extraction by helicopter in unforgiving weather conditions. However, with the advent of telemedicine and mHealth, things are changing; as long as they can hold a good Internet connection, they have instant access to physicians who can direct those on board in giving care and support to start treatment and improve triage. Recently, Alaska Maritime Physicians (AMP) partnered with DrChrono to do just that.

AMP was started in 2015 to address the lack of care on commercial and recreational vessels, largely through a phone-based platform that connected clients with physicians and that sent images through a store-and-forward model. Pairing with DrChrono adds better communications, access to more resources, and video calls through smartphones and tablets. In addition, digital health devices can relay vital signs and other data to AMP’s clinic in Anchorage.

Since going live in 2018, AMP has answered more than 350 calls for help covering conditions such as frostbite, lacerations, illness, heart attacks, broken bones, and other serious injuries. One client required eight emergency extractions during the year prior to working with AMP; in the first year after bringing AMP onboard, the client only needed three. Another client, a vessel’s captain, complained of not feeling well but didn’t think he needed immediate care; upon consulting an AMP physician, it was discovered that he was experiencing a heart attack.

Of course, none of this is possible without a reliable Internet connection. Indeed, R. Scott Lord, Vice President of Operations for AMP, noted that connectivity is a large barrier to mHealth; they want to give care, not fight with technology. With swyMed’s DOT Telemedicine Backpack, connectivity no longer remains an issue. Thanks to partnerships with key carriers, swyMed enjoys priority access to their networks for unparalleled availability, thus enabling the DOT Backpack to work smoothly and dependably in remote locations like the Bering Sea.

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