Telehealth Offers a Vital Resource to Maine’s Island Residents
A telemedicine platform and bi-monthly visits from the Sunbeam give the isolated residents of several Downeast Maine islands a lot more than just telehealth.
By Eric Wicklund
August 22, 2017 – The success of telehealth has always been closely tied to the idea of bringing healthcare to those who have problems with access.
To the 700 or so residents of several islands off Maine’s Downeast region, that success is tied to a video link with an onshore clinic and the 75-foot, steel-hulled vessel that makes twice-monthly runs up and down the coast.
It’s all part of a “big jigsaw puzzle” for healthcare, says Sharon Daley, RN, a Missouri native who launched the nonprofit Maine Seacoast Mission’s telehealth program some 17 years ago and now directs the multi-faceted program out of Bar Harbor.
“Going off island is extremely expensive,” she says. “So we have to make do with what we have.”
Daley’s network begins of the Sunbeam. Equipped with a telemedicine lab that includes virtual visit technology, it sails out of Bar Harbor twice a month, each three-day journey tracing a route that might take it to Matinicus – at 21 miles out, it’s the most distant island, and only accessible at high tide, and home to about 75 full-timers – Isle au Haut and/or Frenchboro and a few others islands are visited with less frequency). Appointments are scheduled with island residents in need of medical service, and time is left for walk-ins as well. All of these services are free.