The warning today by the Health and Safety Executive that firms in the North Sea oil and gas industry must improve their safety records is timely.
Although it was not in the North Sea, the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico in which 11 workers died was a stark reminder of the need for constant vigilance over rig safety. Hazards are ever present offshore and workers on even the safest offshore rigs are susceptible to injuries and high rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
Remote specialist advice via videoconferencing improves the quality of offshore healthcare and reduces avoidable medical evacuations. A 50-mile medevac by helicopter can cost 5,000- 10,000, so telemedicine with remote monitoring and diagnostic equipment is becoming the preferred option now that drilling rigs and oil platforms are equipped with Internet and satellite connections.
Modern collaboration technology brings the specialist to the patient without the need to be transported onshore. With the help of video consultation and integration with medical diagnosis equipment, medical specialists can conduct remote consultations using state-of-the-art video communications. This allows them to make an accurate diagnosis with the aid of the nurse or emergency medical technician based offshore.
On-the-spot diagnosis, not a replacement for healthcare professionals
Transmission of crystal-clear images and perfect sound gives the doctor the sense of being in the same room as the patient - but only just. Technology cannot transmit sensory perceptions and cannot therefore replace healthcare professionals who physically attends to the patient; however, what it can do is extend the physicians judgement to the remote location and bring doctors and other medical specialists 'into the room' when required.
Remote monitoring aid aboard offshore oil rigs
The relentless pursuit for high safety standards is paramount; the challenge to improve safety will be even greater as HSE decision makers are looking to create a healthier and more productive workforce. Timely access to quality patient healthcare is becoming more logistically challenging and expensive, but visual collaboration and the integration with remote medical diagnosis equipment makes sense.... it's as simple as that!