Updated July 28
Maine still waiting for internet health care revolution
Poor broadband and out-of-step Medicare policies relegate the state’s use of telehealth to small niches when it should be in the mainstream.
By J. Craig Anderson, Staff Writer
Information technology should be revolutionizing the way patients in Maine interact with their health care providers, but poor broadband infrastructure and outdated federal policies are slowing progress to a crawl.
Many people believe the best way to increase access to quality, affordable health care in Maine is to connect more patients and providers in real time over the internet and cellular networks via an approach known broadly as telehealth, but there are major obstacles.
[One] program, created in 2001 by the Maine Seacoast Mission, involves a boat outfitted with telehealth equipment and staffed by nurse Sharon Daley, the mission’s director of island health. The mobile telehealth service regularly visits 10 inhabited islands east of Boothbay Harbor, including Frenchboro, Isle au Haut and Matinicus.
Daley said the program has saved island residents countless hours of costly travel for routine medical appointments.
“It costs a couple hundred dollars to go off-island,” she said. “You miss a day of work.”