Telemedicine and Island Health
Since 1905, we have played a vital role in connecting residents of Maine’s most isolated islands with medical care.
For island residents, accessing even the most basic health care is a significant challenge. Not every island has daily ferry service, and a trip to the mainland, when possible, is expensive and time consuming.
In response to these challenges, the Maine Seacoast Mission offers personal care, modern technology, and an array of educational services. Director of Island Health Sharon Daley, RN, meets with islanders on the Sunbeam and in their homes, and keeps in touch between Sunbeam trips via phone and the internet. The Sunbeam is equipped with state-of-the-art telemedicine facilities, including a specialized examination camera and other diagnostic devices, so that islanders can have virtual office visits with doctors on the mainland.
Telemedicine is increasingly important for its role in mental health, too. Adults and children connect with psychiatrists for evaluations and medication reviews, and a growing number of island residents use the equipment to meet with mental health and substance abuse counselors.
The Sunbeam schedules telemedicine appointments on Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, and Matinicus islands. The Mission also supports island-based telemedicine units on Islesboro and Swan’s Island. There is never a charge for any Mission staff member’s services.
The Island Health program also arranges for specialists, including podiatrists, dentists, and ophthalmologists, to visit the islands via the Sunbeam. Sharon Daley sets up on-island screening clinics for conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and arranges educational talks on topics based on islanders’ interests and needs, including fishing safety, tick-borne illness, and anxiety.
Many islanders are concerned about caring for their elderly neighbors—or being able to stay on their islands as they age. Each year, Island Health sponsors a free two-day conference focused on how to help elders from island communities age in place. Caretakers from numerous islands collaborate, share resources, and learn about a variety of topics. Monthly conference calls, an eldercare blog, and a Facebook page keep them connected year-round.
Here is the Sunbeam’s schedule for Island Outreach and Island Health Services.