VIKAND’s Medical Screening Platform Can Make Polar Cruising Safer and More Sustainable
By Dr. Karl Bergsten, Associate Chief Medical Officer & Dr. John Howe, Medical Director
Expeditionary cruising to a remote polar region carries more complex medical risks than cruising in other parts of the world. This is partly because evacuating a sick or injured guest to a shoreside medical facility is far more expensive and time-consuming. Depending on the vessel’s location, the nearest suitable facility may be three to five days away – even when evacuating by air ambulance.
To reduce the likelihood of a preventable health emergency, many polar cruise operators ask guests to undergo a pre-departure medical screening to check for known risk factors. However, there are many challenges to this process, from onerous paperwork to legal concerns across various global jurisdictions.
To simplify the process and make it easier for cruise operators to ensure that every guest is medically fit to sail, VIKAND now offers a convenient, secure, web-based medical screening platform that can be accessed worldwide.
The Importance of Guest Medical Screenings
Now more than ever, polar cruise operators seek to adhere to recommendations by the Association of Arctic Cruise Operators (AECO) and International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). IAATO regulations state that cruise lines should ensure that guests traveling to polar regions receive adequate medical screening prior to sailing, including a “fitness to travel” evaluation by a doctor.
These recommended practices are designed to reduce the number of disembarkations and referrals to local medical facilities. In remote parts of the world, healthcare facilities often have limited resources, from clinicians and supplies to beds, equipment and more. Keeping the polar cruise industry sustainable includes leaving as small a footprint as possible and reducing the burden on local communities.
Challenges to Guest Medical Screenings
Historically, it has been challenging to provide guests with an accurate, reliable and available medical screening process, regardless of their location. Most shoreside doctors are unfamiliar with the cruise environment, let alone the specific medical risks associated with the remote nature of the polar regions. Furthermore, medical associations in certain jurisdictions have advised members against completing medical screening for such voyages, due to medico-legal concerns.
Another issue is burdensome administrative processes. Asking guests to complete written questionnaires, then scan and return by email, adds another level of complexity for cruise operators. Incomplete and illegible forms lead to back-and-forth emails, revisions and lost time. With tens of thousands of guests making these voyages each year, this paperwork can become difficult to manage and keep track of.
VIKAND’s New Screening Platform is the Solution
VIKAND’s new online medical screening platform is designed to help solve these aforementioned problems. Now, guests can go through the entire screening process from anywhere. They simply visit a dedicated VIKAND web portal, complete their online medical questionnaire and schedule a telehealth screening with one of our doctors.
The online pre-screening questionnaire includes mandatory fields, so incomplete submissions become a thing of the past. Next, they schedule an online telehealth appointment with one of VIKAND’s doctors. Since all of our doctors have worked aboard cruise ships, they understand the maritime environment and its associated medical challenges.
The online consultation takes place over video call from the comfort of the guest’s home and can be performed in a growing number of languages, including English, German, French and Mandarin. All data is stored in full compliance with GDPR and HIPAA regulations. If they prefer, guests also have the option of completing their medical screening questionnaire in hard copy and having the medical consultation with their local doctor face-to-face.
Once the screening is complete, VIKAND makes a final review of all medical information and determines if the guest is fit to sail. The cruise operator has full visibility of each stage of the process for every guest, thanks to VIKAND’s innovative digital platform.
As polar cruising practices evolve to meet the needs of operators, guests and local communities, VIKAND aims to play an integral role in solving challenges. Keeping guests safe and healthy in remote regions is of critical importance, and VIKAND’s medical screening platform is designed to maximize convenience and minimize risk.
As experts in the unique medical challenges that can occur in remote areas, VIKAND has the tools and experience to support operators with healthcare best practices. We are committed to reducing tourism-related burdens on local communities, wildlife and natural environments. To achieve this, we help our clients minimize their impact on the world while giving guests an unforgettable travel experience to remote destinations.