Feb. 15, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 22

Health System Inks Telemedicine Agreement with Cruise Line

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette


Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Renaissance cruise ship passengers should travel a little more carefree these days knowing a Hopkins doctor is only a phone call away.

The Hopkins Health System has signed an agreement with the Florida-based cruise line that provides for the hospital's emergency medicine physicians to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for consultations with Renaissance ship doctors.

The telemedicine arrangement, which is expected to be up and running in March, will allow a ship's doctor to exchange medical histories, test results and other vital medical information with Hopkins doctors via telephone, fax and computers.

As part of the agreement, Hopkins also will provide training to Renaissance medical staff and quality assurance for on-board medical facilities.

Seen as an emerging trend in travel, the alliance between a medical services provider and a cruise line is also a strategic marketing tool. Renaissance will carry Hopkins medical literature on its ships and include information about Hopkins Medicine in its marketing campaigns.

Toby Gordon, vice president of planning and marketing for JHHS, said the agreement is a way to improve the health care of Renaissance passengers while also reaching a new market.

"It's a benefit for both sides," Gordon said. "The discerning traveler should be worried about health care on board. Unfortunately, there are events [that happen] at sea--an infection hits the ship or there is a fire. It's also typically an older crowd that cruises, and these are people with higher health risks."

Renaissance cruise lines, which operates in the Mediterranean Sea and the South Pacific, has 700-passenger ships, which are staffed with one doctor and two nurses. Since the role of a ship's doctor is that of primary caregiver, Gordon said the ability to consult with Hopkins doctors from an array of fields will certainly benefit the passengers in the event of a medical emergency.

"The interpretation and decision making can be greatly enhanced through access to specialists and experts. And our emergency medical people are extremely experienced and expert in a lot of complicated procedures," Gordon said.

Gordon added that with travel and maritime medicine a burgeoning area, Hopkins is looking into forging similar telemedicine agreements in the near future.