Stilted in the middle of the frigid North Sea, high atop an isolated oil rig, an employee slips on a slick surface and severely cuts their leg on the rig's machinery. There is no 9-1-1 and the closest EMS team is several hours away by air. What do you do?
Simple—call The First Call.
The First Call is an around-the-clock medical service provider specializing in the practice of telemedicine.
"Our mission is to provide emergency advice in a variety of non-hospital settings," says James Ferguson, MD, leading clinician for The First Call.
"Our job begins when the phone rings or our inbox chimes," explains Ferguson. "Each of our clients has a dedicated phone number routing them to a physician specializing in that client's specific medical needs."
When the physician receives a call, they walk the client step by step through administering the necessary medical treatment. According to Ferguson, The First Call uses a "communicate, diagnose and treat" approach.
"First we establish a proper connection with the patient," he says. "This could mean talking via phone or establishing a live video link." After connection is made, the doctor works on gathering information for diagnostic purposes, which is where technology plays a role.
The Benefits of Technology
With the constant improvement in available technology, the First Call physicians are seeing a rapid increase in their ability to provide comprehensive telemedicine.
"Technology allows for the virtual creation of a hospital setting in the most isolated locations," says Ferguson. "A situation that may have once required evacuation can now be treated remotely—meaning more patients are getting the immediate treatment they need.
"For example, using a mobile phone camera, a client can send us an image of the injury," Ferguson explains.
But the use of technology to diagnose a situation extends beyond photographs. It also allows for the taking of blood glucose, oxygen levels and other physiological measurements. With something as simple as an electronic sheath resembling a banana peel that is slid over a patient's thumb, doctors can instantly have a sweat reading transmitted back to headquarters.
Planning for Proper Care
In order to take advantage of the many lifesaving options technology can provide, the airline, yacht or oil rig must be equipped with the proper emergency medical kit. "Our consultants spend a great deal of time working with clients to update their emergency kits," says Ferguson. "Our focus is to provide the right tools to treat the ailments and emergencies most likely to occur in that client's specific setting."