Industry » Interviews » Taking Global Traveller Healthcare to the Next Level

Taking Global Traveller Healthcare to the Next Level

When VIGILINT and the Cleveland Clinic joined forces to create a pioneering new healthcare program over five years ago, they could not have foreseen or imagined the speed at which health would become such a key priority in today’s precarious world.

Their Global MedAssist Program (GMAP) quickly established itself as a world-leader and the marine version is now being rolled out to members of the IGY Trident Collective, which offers next generation benefits to the globe’s elite community of superyacht owners. 

OnboardOnline sat down with Jennifer Bell, Global Client Services Account Manager at VIGILINT and Jonathan Schaffer, MD, GMAP Program Director within International Operations at Cleveland Clinic, to find out exactly what members can expect when a healthcare issue strikes.

Joining forces

A meeting of minds – and goals – led to the establishment of GMAP, which provides 24/7/365 direct-to-physician access and medical assistance for global travellers.

VIGILINT, the North Carolina-based provider of intelligence-driven global health protection, offers a full spectrum of telemedicine, medical advisory, crisis management and expeditionary solutions for travellers, corporations and government clients.

As such, they are the perfect complement to the Cleveland Clinic, which was established in 1921 and is consistently named as one of the US ‘s best hospitals. The Cleveland Clinic pioneered medical breakthroughs including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the US.

“We joined together to offer GMAP to our clients about five years ago,’ explains VIGILINT’s Jennifer Bell. ‘VIGILINT has the ability to mobilise, pivot and offer a variety of different medical security capabilities for our clients. The Cleveland Clinic brought in their wealth of specialty and subspecialty access to every type of doctor. We have our own uniquely qualified ER physicians and our partnership with Cleveland Clinic bolsters that, giving us access to health care resources beyond the initial consult plus a level of specialty to really take care of all our members, no matter what they present with.”

Jonathan, also an orthopaedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, backs up that view. “Health security and health access are often the missing pieces,” he adds. “Health is something most people don’t think about until it’s too late. Our belief in what we’re doing as a team through the Global MedAssist Program is very strong. We offer health security, access, care and follow up and we plan to address those same needs through the IGY Trident program while becoming a trusted resource for folks in superyachting.”

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VIGILINT team: Sean Siler, DO, Eric Ossmann, MD, and Matthew Bitner, MD

Partners in excellence

Naturally, as an integral partner in IGY’s ambitious and exclusive new Trident membership program, the team’s background bios are stellar. VIGILINT’s physicians are largely military and special ops trained with extensive experience in challenging environments while Cleveland Clinic’s over 120 specialties include cancer, cardiology, heart surgery, diabetes, endocrinology, gastroenterology, geriatrics, gynaecology, neurology, orthopaedics and urology. 

“These GMAP physicians are expert in remote field care, extremely capable and will take care of 70-80% of situations,” explains Jonathan, “but in certain cases, they will need a specialist or sub-specialist. We’ve got that instant link through the medical operations centre to our team at Cleveland Clinic.”

So how did they become involved with the IGY Trident Collective? Jonathan, a keen sailor, immediately saw the attraction of offering the highest levels of patient care to an exclusive marketplace which expects only the best.

“There was an immediate bonding once we were introduced to IGY - we all understood that it’s about dealing with access, impediments, challenges and threats and we crafted a bespoke program that applies specifically to travellers in a marine environment.

“You’re in a unique situation on a superyacht when you’re not connected to anything except by technology. We use that tech to our advantage for health care access and there are immense possibilities to take it even further.

“We wanted to work together for the market and the customer need. Whether IGY customers are in the marina, mobile or being managed, we can support their needs and we saw IGY Trident as a unique opportunity to get involved.  

“Our client services team are on the frontline, identifying the problems with the clients and their challenges and plugging in the medical side to get Cleveland Clinic involved to develop solutions.

“We’re able to offer treatments and follow up, much of which can be done remotely online now. The pandemic has pushed this area a lot. I can diagnose many things by listening to a patient or watching them on virtual visits post-op. We need to extend the hospital environment to where the patient is at.”

The future of telemedicine

At the heart of GMAP’s remote medical service is a telemedicine travel medical kit (TMK) and, as Jennifer explains, this ground-breaking but simple portable medicine cabinet can often prevent an onboard or remote health crisis from escalating.

“The captain, owner and their spouse have kits filled with prescriptions which will go with them. They call the operations centre at VIGILINT and are connected with one of our physicians within 30 seconds for a telemedicine consult. Around 90% of conditions are a cut, abrasion, or superficial infection or a viral illness requiring symptomatic care.   The physician recommends to them what they need to do or take and they will be directed to take, for example, the antibiotic out of the pouch and ingest it a number of times a day.

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Cleveland Clinic

“These kits are a personal medicine cabinet – you don’t have to get to port, find a pharmacy or see a local doctor – and they are also customs ready. The quantity of each medication is just enough to treat you with the right dosage.”

Another important factor is the immediacy in obtaining the correct medication. Even a short delay can exacerbate a problem as missing an antibiotic for a couple of extra days could lead to an infection becoming more severe.

“If the patient requires physical care for a broken leg, VIGILINT steps in to locate the nearest facility including one of Cleveland Clinic’s global facilities, get them admitted and follow them through,’ adds Jennifer. “And if they need continued care and don’t want to continue receiving it there, our air evacuation partner can move the member to their home country or a hospital of their choice for continued care. It’s very integrated and being able to trust our medical experts to tell you if you’re in good hands is crucial when you’re far from home.”

Partnering with the best of the best

Aligning with IGY Trident’s premier league of major players in fuel, yacht management, crew care and insurance is another bonus according to Jonathan, who says: ”We’re joining the best of the best of the best. To be able to execute for those in need requires folks who are motivated and capable. That’s what makes a premier league team – the capability, the interest and the motivation. 

“Our staff are trained to act like a Formula 1 pit group. Our critical care teams work in the air or on the water and they themselves are all the best of the best. We’ve developed bespoke and exclusive programs for our clients which are built just for them. With Cleveland Clinic hospitals and facilities across the US in Ohio, Florida and Nevada as well as Abu Dhabi, Canada and London, we have a global presence.”

Jennifer describes the partnership with Trident as “very humbling” and is thrilled to have IGY’s trust in such an important area of their program.

“We serviced clients in Asia during the pandemic and my team ramped in terms of helping and adding service lines to assist our clients,” she says. “We were led by them and their needs to keep them safe and I’m hoping the people we service with IGY will come to us with other separate needs, like wedding healthcare for their guests or clinic packages. It’s remarkable to be working with this team.”

A gamechanger for superyachting 

With IGY’s world-beating global offering of 24 superyacht marinas in 13 countries across the US, Caribbean, Latin America and Europe, Jonathan believes they are perfectly placed to launch this game-changing new next generation program.

“IGY has been working diligently on assembling a collection of marinas for a long time, so yes, coupled with our GMAP Medical Operations Centre and Cleveland Clinic’s global presence, Trident is  a game-changing solution,” he says.

Embracing communications and technology are areas that VIGILINT, Cleveland Clinic and IGY believe are crucial for a successful future.

“We now use a common electronic medical record platform so that our teams of doctors can effectively manage the patients’ health issues. Our professional staff in the medical operations centre, our client services team, our admission and transfer centre on the Cleveland Clinic side and our PACE coverage – primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency - all give us the ability to address the individual needs of our clients. This is a package which makes the difference.

Being part of a big umbrella group is an exciting development in Jennifer’s eyes. “Building relationships is huge and that is how we have continued to grow and be able to offer more,” she says. “We are very excited about this partnership; it will be invaluable to every partner at play here.”


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