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Telehealth News

New Telehealth Services Cater to Mobile Employees

New telehealth-enhanced wellness centers at truck stops target an industry with its fair share of health concerns. It's just one of several telehealth services aimed at hard-to-reach workers and travelers.

- A Pennsylvania college's Social Enterprise Institute has launched a network of health and wellness centers for truckers.

Graduate students of Elizabethtown College and the SEI, also based at the college, are converting nine mobile chapels at truck stops around the country into care centers, equipped with telehealth tools and services, relaxation spaces, a smaller chapel, and an area for traveling companions, including dogs and ponies. Backed by the Trucker Wellness Foundation, the SEI plans to open another seven centers in 2018, expand to some 100 centers in the U.S. and Canada, and then open centers in Africa.

“The whole key of this is convenience for the driver and ease of accessibility,” Jim Frederick, president of Professional Drivers Health Net, recently told E-town NOW, the college’s online newsroom. “We want to address the whole person, but we want to ultimately help drivers keep their driver’s license (CDL) and have a healthy life to the extent we can help that.”

Often listed as one of the nation’s more stressful job, the nation’s estimated 7 million professional truck drivers have a higher-than-normal risk of developing chronic conditions and suffering on-the-job health issues, yet close to 65 percent don’t have a primary care provider and many have either no medical insurance or policies with high deductibles. According to the PDHN, truckers are 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes and 87 percent more likely to suffer from hypertension, while half of all truckers are classified as obese and half suffer from sleep apnea.

“These health issues place a toll on families, impose a financial burden on employers and have created regulatory challenges for the federal government because they effect safety issues on our roads,” the group says in supporting literature, noting that one person is killed in a truck accident every 16 minutes.

Jim Reeb, director for the Elizabethtown College SEI, told E-town NOW that his organization worked with the PDHN and the college’s occupational therapy students to create the health centers. A $24.95 annual charge to truckers covers the cost of health and behavioral counseling, co-pays and any scheduled video consults.

“We started with the notion of delivering an entire wellness program: body, soul and spirit,” Reeb said. “We realized that we really needed to create a new program that the country doesn’t have.”

The PDHN joins a small but growing mHealth network aimed at providing on-demand healthcare for remote and often-itinerant workers, including truck drivers, airline employees, oil rig workers, cruise ship employees and even entertainers.

Roughly three years ago, UrgentCare Travel launched clinics at Pilot Flying J Travel Centers along several major interstate highways. More recently, online telehealth platforms like DocOnCall247 and Advanced Telehealth Solutions began marketing their services directly to truckers. The University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine and AMD Global Telemedicine, meanwhile, offer telemedicine services to cruise line employees and their passengers. For oil rig workers, Houston-based NuPhysicia and George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates’ Maritime Medical Access program – based in Scotland – are among the front-runners.

Just last year, Texas-based WellVia partnered with Eventric, a Chicago-based provider of online services for the entertainment industry, to launch a telehealth-based concierge medicine service for touring entertainers

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