March 1, 2001
The cruise industry continues to increase the sophistication of onboard medical facilities (particularly those lines that attract older passengers demographics). Relatively recent developments include affiliating with state-side hospitals (Renaissance and Johns Hopkins) and offering real-time consults (Princess and Cedars-Sinai). The latest new twist comes from Holland America, which has installed a “telemedicine” system, integrated into the ship during construction. What that means is onboard physicians can transmit high-quality X-ray images, ECGs and live video images to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, a hospital considered one of the front-runners in the telemedicine arena. Beyond the obvious fact that this is good news for passengers who develop a serious malady while sailing, it also means that onboard, doctors have the technology to treat the more serious problems -- the kind of medical emergencies that, in the past, required a ship to turn around and return to a port (or request a helicopter Medivac). That limits vacation disruption for the rest of the ship’s passengers.