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Doctors Without The Office

By Dr. Michael Garcia • Dr. Thomas Falterman

The compact yet comprehensive telemedicine unit that the paramedic brings to a remote work site to communicate with the on-call doctor.
A company's overall productivity directly depends upon the individual productivity of its employees. Employee illness, in the form of both physical absence and reduced productivity at work, costs hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Employers in all industries need to take steps to invest more heavily in the health of their workers, for the benefit of individuals as well as their company's own financial health.

In the offshore and remote onshore oil and gas industry in particular, there are numerous opportunities for workers to sustain injuries or illnesses that result in short- or long-term conditions that can prevent them from doing their job. Typical injuries include falls, back strains, fractures and overexertion. When a worker falls ill at a remote job site (as is common in the modern-day oil and gas industry), it can present a stressful, and often expensive, situation for both the employee and the employer.

Fortunately, there are companies that can harness the cutting edge of modern technology to provide a service that can not only extend communications to those remote locations, but also provide fast and effective health care directly to those workers in need. The service is known as telemedicine. The goal of telemedicine is to provide quality, remote medical care for those in need at offshore or isolated onshore worksites. Furthermore, the unique telemedicine service offered by Worldwide Telemedicine (WWTM), based in Houma, Louisiana, goes even further, as it can assist in reducing a company's OSHA recordables during the handling of each individual case.

Reaching out to Those in Need
WWTM was created with the aim of being virtually present at any medical emergency. The company's technology provides the most comprehensive medical care available in the industry, to reduce the need for costly emergency transportations and effectively manage emergencies and injuries in real time. The company employs board-certified physicians and trained paramedics who utilize cutting-edge technology to communicate with the remote work location in real time via satellite or Wi-Fi. Via telemedicine units, all of the emergency physicians at Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center (CMC, an acute care hospital opened in 1978) are able to be virtually present at a client's job site to successfully address any medical emergency. Essentially, the WWTM Telemedicine Unit functions just like a doctor's office, without the office, eliminating or reducing unnecessary lost-time accidents and evacuations on behalf of offshore clients.

The technology also allows for a case manager to be 'patched-in' in real time to immediately record an employee's incident report, which can greatly increase the accuracy of any OSHA recordables.

This capability is unique to WWTM's Telemedicine Unit, and provides added value to clients who are conscientious about maintaining and reducing their OSHA records.

WWTM's comprehensive service provides immediate response to emergency situations in the most remote locations around the globe and keeps employees safe and well cared for while they are performing their jobs in high-risk locations.

The Benefits of Remote Care
WWTM's telemedicine system provides a range of comprehensive benefits. With board-certified ER physicians, specially trained on-site paramedics, a state-of-the-art Telemedicine Unit and turnkey case management abilities, all of WWTM's services are geared toward the safety and health of its clients' employees, while also assisting clients with effective cost-management measures. Packages can be modified to meet specific company and job site requirements, and variables generally considered are: the number of job sites, hours of client coverage required per day, service to a stationary versus floating rig or vessel and geographical location of the job site.

By enabling the doctor to attend directly to the patient via the Telemedicine Unit, companies will fundamentally decrease their expenditure on worker evacuations for unnecessary ER visits, observe a dramatic reduction in lost-time incidents and appreciate the value (and not to mention peace of mind) attached to having 24/7 access to board-certified ER physicians, with the aim of getting a worker fit to resume his job.

The Process: A Breakdown
When an offshore incident occurs, WWTM doctors provide immediate consultation and guidance to on-site paramedics for a thorough and accurate diagnosis, care and treatment at the job site. Unlike other telemedicine service companies who dispatch only the telemedicine unit to a site, and therefore place the onus on an unskilled worker to operate it and initiate doctor-directed treatment, WWTM's OSHA-trained, occupational-medical ER doctors are physically present next to the Telemedicine Unit, a specially made computer with video conferencing capabilities, to answer a call when it comes through; they are more than just on-call. This means there is zero downtime between a call for assistance being placed by the client and the client receiving a response from the doctor. There is no wait time for the doctor to arrive physically at the scene and get prepared. With WWTM's Telemedicine Unit, the doctor is already on location and ready to assist. The doctor is in a room with the land unit 24/7. A computer with video conferencing capabilities is used to interface with the on-location telemedicine unit operated by the paramedic on the rig or at the job site. What makes WWTM different is that they send an operator with their unit. Other companies use an iPhone application, which can have spotty reception, or just send the telemedicine unit itself and count on someone on the rig to run the unit. To continue this article please click here.

Dr. Michael Garcia, M.D. is CEO of Worldwide Telemedicine and medical director of L.J. Chabert Medical Center. He is board certified in general surgery.

Dr. Thomas Falterman, M.D. is board certified in emergency medicine and internal medicine. He is an on-call doctor with Worldwide Telemedicine.

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