MedAire, the leading medical assistance, safety and security organisation has revealed a 40% increase in use of its MedLink service between 2019 and 2020. The service, dedicated entirely to the motor yacht community, provides crew and guests with direct access to medical professionals in an emergency situation as well as for general medical advice.
MedLink provides services to over 50% of the world’s motor yachts. A total of 15 of 18 MedLink case categories showed substantial increases, demonstrating the importance of tele-medical services to the yachting industry. Infectious disease, including Covid-19, unsurprisingly, showed the largest increase of over five times (504%) more cases compared to the previous year.
Mental health was the second most increased category, which saw a 131% rise in cases. Calls related predominantly to depression, anxiety and stress. This was followed by neurological (headaches, dizziness and migraines) issues and then obstetrical/ gynaecological.
MedAire also saw a change in the way in which cases were resolved by clients: In 2020, an increased number of cases, 76%, were managed onboard, compared with 64% in 2019. Brent Palmer, Director of Education at MedAire says that, “the increase shows how seriously crew members worldwide have taken COVID-19 protocols: not risking a potential exposure onboard by going shoreside for a check up.”
The only three categories that decreased in case numbers were oncological, gastrointestinal and non-communicable respiratory, the latter of which saw a 30% decrease, marked by a reduction in upper respiratory infections – which includes illnesses like the common cold, bronchitis and laryngitis.
“As many of these types of infections are spread through hand-to-mouth contact, it shows that the Covid-19 precautions taken by many vessels, like mask wearing and regular hand washing, had a positive impact upon physical health onboard.” MedAire Director of Account Management Emma Deal says that, “as captains and owners continue to see the importance of having strong medical support in place for their crew and guests, they have increasingly turned to MedAire for guidance. Clients are aware of the risks and are seeking advice from trusted advisors to support them in mitigation strategies to protect crew and guests, whether that is providing guidance for onboard protocols, or consulting on how to choose the right COVID-19 testing solution for their vessel.”
Many MedAire clients are now much more prepared to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks or even a future pandemic, and many of the lessons already learnt will remain important to crews in the years to come. For example, implementing a PCR testing solution onboard can be very costly, but many of the machines used for this are adaptable and can also be used to test for various other diseases.
Dr Michael Braida, MedAire Regional Medical Director, Europe says that, “the COVID-19 pandemic today requires a careful pre-disembarkation review of regions, countries, and ports. A number of popular yachting destinations rely heavily on tourism, and countries that previously had adequate healthcare systems in place, may no longer. For these reasons disembarkation for medical care is still, in many parts of the world, difficult to impossible, so the utilisation of health care professionals at MedAire, twinned with the right equipment and medication onboard allow for the safest voyage possible. As with any medical issue, early notification to a healthcare professional remains essential.”