The global joint venture between PRAXES and Clipper Ventures, ClipperTelemed+, was ceremoniously launched in April 2015 and has made productive strides in the first year of business. According to ClipperTelemed+ Business Development Manager, Tom Bettle, it’s been an interesting year full of challenges and triumphs. Looking back at the first year of business, Bettle discusses his vision for the future of this dynamic maritime-focused remote medical service.
With over a year of business behind ClipperTelemed+, there have been many positive developments as well as challenges. What is your current focus for the business?
From a personal perspective, I’m even more excited about the business than I was a year ago. We know that the service ClipperTelemed+ provides really works and has amazing consequences for crew. It’s almost so good that the people we’re reaching out to don’t always believe that it’s possible.
You are very interested in further developing the technology component of what ClipperTelemed+ offers. Can you elaborate on this?
To give a very basic description, we currently provide an expert physician to speak with over a satellite phone at any time. It’s a fantastic service and it does amazing things. As technology moves forward and costs of service come down, we are working on options like video, bio-rhythm fit bands and other new developments that we can make work to complement what we already offer.
ClipperTelemed+ has had great results with the Clipper Race and that relationship is very positive and continuing to grow. What are your thoughts on how things have unfolded for this edition of the race?
The race has been an incredible proving ground for what the physicians at PRAXES can do. Initially, when speaking to members of the shipping industry and super yacht owners, it became abundantly clear to me that the cuts, infections, sprains and breaks are incidents that are happening everywhere at sea on ships. The Clipper Race just has a lot more of them. So, the race is a great case study but we need to stop talking about sailors and talk more about seafarers instead.
At this stage, who do you see as the future clientele of ClipperTelemed+?
Anyone who operates in a remote environment where they have limited access to medical care or that medical care is of dubious quality and expensive. We are targeting mariners and focused on the maritime sector first, but really it is a very beneficial service to anyone in a remote setting with limited access to medical care.
ClipperTelemed+ Business Development Manager, Tom Bettle, at the Clipper Race Seattle stopover in April 2016
What are some of your biggest challenges while promoting ClipperTelemed+?
Many vessels have no support at all because they didn’t think they needed it or it was too expensive. We needed to create a service for smaller vessels on a limited budget. It wasn’t complicated – we just took the number of calls we would expect and divided them by the number of crew on that vessel and came up with a customized pricing strategy. We have done that and we’re starting to see value from it. It was a challenge to figure out pricing for all clients. We have a great story to tell and many case studies to back this up. If we can introduce our prospective clients to those who have used and benefited from the ClipperTelemed+ service, this will have a huge impact. Ultimately it will not be the salesman telling the story but the person who has actually used it.
What are the biggest triumphs you’ve had over this past year?
Getting some of the world’s largest superyacht management companies to understand our service and start utilizing it instead of the entrenched competition has been a really positive step. The insurance companies are acknowledging that we’re on to something and listening to us as well now. I’ve also seen for myself how successful the service we provide has been for the Clipper Race and I’m learning how to present that to the rest of the maritime world. These are only stepping stones towards much larger objectives, but we are making great inroads towards them.
What will your strategy be going forward to continue to build the business?
We need to work from both directions. We need to talk to all the individual seafarers, the yachtsmen or the fishermen, who might need the service in small quantities. They will tell their colleagues and friends on the dock but we also need to work from the top downwards by getting maritime organizations to support us. If we can get strong maritime organizations supporting us, we can start encouraging them to provide common sense legislation from the top down so that services like ours become the norm for all seafarers.
Tom Bettle hosts guests aboard the ClipperTelemed+ yacht