For Sharon Daley, RN, telemedicine enables everything she does for the Mission’s Island Health program. From scheduling and coordinating care, lab draws, and flu vaccines to meeting with the eldercare partner network and holding her own patient appointments, connecting virtually is essential. “It allows for a wide range of health services, including primary care, medical specialties, behavioral health, and substance abuse,” she says.
Islanders can stay in their communities obtain medical services and stay in touch with loved ones, which is something everyone deserves.
– Sharon Daley, Director of Island Health
While regions of Maine struggle for reliable internet connectivity, islands tend to fare better. “I think that’s why islanders responded so positively and quickly to telemedicine. It’s hard to get off the island for services,” remarked Sharon. “It’s not just a one-hour session with a provider. Islanders must factor in water crossings by mail boats or ferries as well as additional commuting by vehicle. During this time of year, weather affects boat schedules, which in turn means canceling and rescheduling health appointments.” With a decrease in staffing at many provider sites, it takes more time to rebook those appointments.
A recent grant award from the Celia Lipton Farris and Victor W. Farris Foundation will help Sharon and the Mission diminish those challenges. The Farris Foundation supports projects designed to enable people to help themselves lead successful, inspired, and fulfilling lives. Further, these grants focus on supporting projects that stimulate innovation, strengthen individuals and families, and can demonstrate a sustainable impact.
Sharon explained, “The Farris Foundation grant gives us the ability to furnish islanders with iPads. In addition to placing the technology, it also means providing education on how to use it.”
The option to meet virtually will allow essential health services. For island residents, technology also increases connectivity to family, friends, and ordering supplies like food. This means decreasing isolation. If there’s an older adult in a home, they can connect to family members, friends, and the world off-island. This alleviates the sense of remoteness and improves cognitive and emotional health.
In addition, Sharon’s team is identifying people to use iPads for medical visits, counseling, and to attend meetings like AA. “Telemedicine and technology exists for people to access services they would otherwise obtain on the mainland. It means islanders can stay in their communities obtain medical services and stay in touch with loved ones, which is something everyone deserves.”
For a window into Sharon’s work and the Island Health program, watch In Our Words, presented by Walgreen’s Studios.
It’s Thank you Thursday. Today’s shout out of Mission love goes to Carroll Drug Store in Southwest Harbor, and Jensen’s Pharmacy in Rockland ME for “going the extra mile” while helping Island Services Director Sharon Daley, RN do her work among Maine island communities.
“Both small local pharmacies have been so helpful to me through the years,” said Sharon Daley. “Getting flu vaccine for the islands would have been impossible without their help.
“I have called both pharmacists — who are always very busy — with questions about patient medications. Often I’m calling about patients who aren’t getting their medication at the pharmacies. Still, both pharmacies, without fail, take time to answer our questions,” she said.
“They also understand the difficulty of getting your medications on an island and do their best to help,” continued Sharon. “I really appreciate their willingness to help and for going the extra mile in all they do for their customers and for me.”
The important work of telemedicine on Maine islands
By Maine Seacoast Mission • September 12, 2019
For Maine’s island residents, accessing even basic health care is a significant challenge. Trips to the mainland, when possible, are expensive and time consuming.
Since 1905, the Maine Seacoast Mission has played a vital role connecting residents of Maine’s most isolated unbridged islands with services: access to medical and dental care, spiritual support, education, and crisis services. The first of the Mission’s ships named Sunbeam, commissioned in 1912, carried books, supplies, and pastoral care to Maine islands, lighthouses, and isolated coastal communities of Hancock and Washington counties.
The Sunbeam also transported the very ill to hospitals, and provided basic health care and vaccinations.
Today, the Sunbeam V, with a Captain and four-person crew, carries on its work, combining Mission traditions with modern telemedicine.
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.”