Onboard Medical Facilities

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.