For those of us who live most of our lives in relative safety – who eat, sleep, work, and travel in the comfort of places familiar and safe to us – it can be all too easy to take our healthcare plans for granted.
Currently, there are millions of Americans who are not afforded this luxury, who work difficult and strenuous jobs, who travel long distances and expose themselves to all manner of stresses and dangers that threaten to negatively impact their health. For these Americans, healthcare is hardly something to be taken lightly.
Understanding Risk-Prone Industries
While there are dozens of industries filled with men and women performing difficult tasks that bring the possibility of serious health effects, one of the best and most prolific examples of a risk-prone industry is long-haul trucking.
Truck driving is one of the most common professions in the United States and is responsible for employing nearly 3.5 million men and women. What makes trucking such a powerful example of a risk-prone industry – besides the sheer numbers of those it employs – is that it is an industry found in every corner and demographic of this country; helping it stand out among the agricultural industries of the midwest, the manufacturing industries of the Rust Belt, and the fishing industries that populate every stretch of America’s coastline.
How Risk-Prone Industries Negatively Impact Health
The risks associated with truck driving, especially when done over the course of several years, are numerous. Truck drivers spend nearly every moment of their careers in the seated position and are rarely afforded the luxury of a balanced diet, instead having to rely on whatever food they can procure on the road. As a result, nearly 86% of all truck drivers in this country are classified as overweight or obese, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of the American Diabetic Association.
With obesity comes the threat of various chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. Days and weeks spent on the road and away from home means healthcare is less accessible, and the likelihood that long-haul truck drivers even consider seeking healthcare services is lessened. And with worsening health conditions comes the increased possibility of accidents and other safety events occurring on the roadways, causing potential harm not only to truck drivers, but also to others on the road, as well as to trucking companies, who take on the liability of their drivers.
Providing an Alternative to Traditional Healthcare Services
With telehealth, truck drivers, employers, and insurers (along with all men and women employed in risk-prone industries) can greatly benefit from services such as remote patient monitoring and 24/7 health call center assistance to bring doctors, nurses, and clinicians directly to patients. As all telehealth services are performed through web-based connections, these services can be performed anywhere, no matter the location.
From the convenience of drivers’ mobile phones, they can be connected to a clinical team that is monitoring important vital signs and taking interventional actions when required. As recently as just a few years ago, such connectivity wasn’t available, as wireless Internet computing just didn’t offer the power required of such remote patient monitoring programs. However, with recent advances in wireless communications comes advances in telehealth and remote patient monitoring.
It is these advances that can protect our nation’s long-haul truck drivers and those who share the roads with them.
About Karen Thomas
Karen Thomas is a certified management accountant and the president of Advanced TeleHealth Solutions, one of the leading telehealth monitoring companies in the U.S. Karen is a nationally renowned speaker, a lecturer for Missouri State University’s graduate-level Health Care Administration program, and a contributing author to, “Home Telehealth: Connecting Care Within the Community,” published by Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd. Karen has appeared on numerous webinars and has spoken at dozens of conferences on the benefits of remote patient monitoring, generating enhanced clinical outcomes, patient engagement, and coordination of care. She is a member of the Missouri Governors Innovation Task Force, a past board member of the National Association for Home Care and Private Duty Home Care Association, a member of the American Telemedicine Association and the American Society on Aging, and a past ex-officio member of the advisory board of HealthCare Technology Association of America.