ClipperTelemed+ Business Development Manager, Tom Bettle, discusses his vision for the future of this innovative telemedicine service
For Tom Bettle, transitioning to his role as ClipperTelemed+ Business Development Manager has been truly exciting and his unique skill set has made him a natural fit for the challenging position. Bettle’s business career of nearly thirty years has been in sales and business development within various industry sectors ranging from medical to IT. Since 2002, he has been working in the maritime industry. A former bridge officer, navigator and ocean motor yacht skipper, Bettle holds professional maritime tickets to this day. Maintaining current qualifications enables him to have good maritime domain awareness and a thorough understanding of Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), Standards of Training Certification and Watch-keeping (STCW) and the requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention. As one of the driving forces behind marketing and branding the ClipperTelemed+ service, Bettle brings an unwavering focus and determination to growing this innovative new business. He took some time to answer a few questions for us on his vision for the future of ClipperTelemed+.
With your strong background in business, sales and the maritime industry, you bring a wealth of experience to the role of Business Development Manager. Your energy regarding the ClipperTelemed+ service is infectious. Tell us what excites you most about the launch of this new service?
As a sales professional, you want to have a product which you can believe in. As a seafarer, you want to have the best facilities available to you even if you never need them. I am a salesman and also keep my maritime certificates up to date.
ClipperTelemed+ truly enhances medical care at sea and brings enormous benefits should you ever be in the position of needing it. I’ve seen the results for myself and the response from crew is quite remarkable. Additionally, I see the business consequences and wonder why isn’t everybody using this! Being part of ClipperTelemed+ from the beginning is like being at the start of what you know will be an extremely exciting voyage and I can’t wait to set the engines to full ahead.
ClipperTelemed+ is a global joint venture between PRAXES Medical Group and Clipper Ventures. How did this come about and what power does the Clipper Ventures brand bring to the business?
The business itself screamed out to be set up as a result of the service provided by PRAXES to the crew of the 13/14 Clipper Round the World Race. During the previous races the crews had no remote medical support and this resulted in many trips to shore side hospitals for all manner of injuries and illnesses from quite serious to extremely minor. The results of this was worry and discomfort for crew whilst at sea, lost time ashore and in the case of the 11/12 race some £535,000 in travel insurance claims. The contrast with previous races and the 13/14 race was startling. With the support of the physicians at PRAXES, crew could be treated mid Pacific and be back race fit very shortly after. On-board medics could seek reassurance following an incident and crew confidence grew tenfold. The actual consequences of having PRAXES on-board came to light post race when we realized that despite the same crew demographic and very similar injuries being experienced the number of visits to hospitals ashore had almost halved and the costs to insurers was just £230,000. The enhanced care to crew was frankly obvious, but the business case was also truly dramatic. For the first time in the Clipper Race’s 20 year history we felt compelled to go into business with a sponsor. Using the Clipper Race and brand as a springboard should help take the extremely proven PRAXES suite of services beyond Canada and to the maritime world.
How would you describe your position as ClipperTelemed+ Business Development Manager?
My role at ClipperTelemed+ pretty much covers the entire business building function. We are a brand new business, but fortunate enough to have the vast experience and skills of our business partners to rely on. This truly helps open doors, but my main role is to find ways of building those early relationships and eventually turning prospects into long term clients who remain with us year after year because we deliver exactly what we promise – better care and reduced operational costs.
How do you differentiate ClipperTelemed+ from its competitors?
We have a number of key competitors from the national free services operated by coastguards around the world to very professional and very established paid-for services. However, ClipperTelemed+ uniquely stands out for a number of key reasons. Firstly, our service goes way beyond critical emergencies and medevac co-ordination. Time and time again, PRAXES has proved with their Canadian clients that, in the majority of cases, a vessel diversion or medevac can be avoided by first-class physicians, dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of their patients, taking responsibility and control of the situation. Through proper diagnosis and treatment unnecessary diversions and medevacs can be avoided and the vessel can continue with the sick or injured seafarer receiving the appropriate treatment on-board. Inevitably, this brings our second differentiator. More often than not our patient’s injury or illness is not as serious as they had feared leaving us providing a service that completely encompasses medical care at sea. Everything from critical emergency to minor accident to general practice and even occupational health are all areas that our physicians are involved with daily. Their watchful eye on the shoulder of a skilled medic can reassure and boost the confidence of not only the medic, but the patient and the whole crew. Service provision is not the only unique area of our business, but also how we provide it. Most of our competitors only offer annual contracts. ClipperTelemed+ is totally flexible in how we provide our service and we will tailor the term and provision to suit each client – be that a solo ocean yachtsman, a super-yacht owner, a shipping fleet manager or even a yacht race organizer. A tailored service that suits each client for a contract term that works for them can be provided on request. Ask us and we will listen.
Final differentiator for now, a navy term is to “cross the beach” meaning to come ashore and it is becoming very apparent that due to the first class, but uniquely flexible service we provide it can work in all manner of places from large corporations to schools and colleges and beyond. Our service works “wherever you dare”.
ClipperTelemed+ is available to clients in commercial shipping and the private yacht and super-yacht market. What opportunities in the maritime sector do you see as most promising?
This is a really tough one as the maritime industry is actually rather small but incredibly diverse. My own private passion is smaller boats and yachts, but from the pure size of the market – commercial shipping is possibly most valuable. However, in these first few weeks of being operational, we have been taken aback by previously unconsidered markets such as insurance.
How has the maritime industry reacted so far to the news of the ClipperTelemed+ service?
Almost without exception, the maritime industry has welcomed us. As in any corporate business, relationships take time to build but the responses we get from those sat across the boardroom table when they see how we can both improve the lives of their seafarers and dramatically reduce their costs is undeniable.