UM TeleHealth Provides Remote Dermatology to Cruise Ships

TeleHealth at UHealth-University of Miami Health System has entered into a contract with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to provide teledermatology services to company employees working on cruise ships at sea. Physicians on board Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises will transmit dermatology images and information from ships across the cruise line’s fleet to dermatologists at the Miller School for remote consultation.

“For over 15 years, the Miller School of Medicine has been a leader in telehealth, including participation in the development of telehealth practice guidelines,” said Anne Burdick, M.D., professor of dermatology and associate dean of TeleHealth and clinical outreach at the Miller School. “We can use technology to provide our clinical expertise regardless of the patient’s location.”

“Telehealth is one component of our efforts to improve health care services for our employees and guests,” said Arthur Diskin, M.D., vice president and global chief medical officer for Royal Caribbean. “Although we have very competent clinical providers throughout our fleet, they occasionally need to consult with medical specialists. Dermatology is one specialty that is particularly amenable to telehealth, and it’s often difficult to access dermatologists for face-to-face visits during a cruise. Telehealth allows us to receive expert medical opinion in a timely manner without the time, logistical issues and costs associated with seeking care ashore.”

The teledermatology service involves a ship’s physician or nurse taking digital photographs of areas of concern on the patient’s skin. These images are combined with medical history and other relevant information that are entered into a special web-based software system, MedWeb, that uploads the case to a secure server at the Miller School. A consulting dermatologist reviews the case and makes his or her recommendation for a course of care to be implemented by the ship’s physician.

“Telehealth provides an efficient mechanism for patients to receive specialty care at a time and location convenient to them,” explained Scott Simmons, M.S., director of TeleHealth at the Miller School. “We foresee employers increasingly using telehealth as a means of improving both care quality and productivity, by providing medical expertise at the work site virtually, via technology. In the case of Royal Caribbean, the workers are aboard ships at sea, but the benefits extend to any workplace.”

The service is available aboard all Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises ships. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. operates 41 cruise ships and typically has 20,000 to 25,000 employees at sea.

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