Media Archive

Telehealth helps bridge rural health care gap

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 24, June 16, 2004

Shelley Sides is helping to bridge the gap between rural Maine and high-quality home health care.

Sides, a registered nurse with Community Health and Counseling Services, is the agency's new telehealth nurse. In that capacity, she works with clients throughout Penobscot, Piscataquis, Hancock and Washington counties who have portable telehealth units set up in the home to keep up to date on their progress as they receive care for congestive heart failure or speech therapy services.

Sides also works collaboratively with all members of the client's interdisciplinary team, led by the primary care physician, and alerts them when a concern or problem presents itself.

"The telehealth program allows access to people on a more constant basis," said Sides, who is based in Bangor. "With the telehealth units, we can provide more frequent assessments of clients without having to send a nurse to the house on a more frequent basis."

These home-based telemedicine units allow for the monitoring of a client's weight and such vital signs as blood pressure and heart rate. The unit, about the size of a home computer, is set up in the home and is designed to be easy for the client operator. Several have a video component so the nurse can see the client and the client can see the nurse.

"A client can be 45 minutes from a nurse or an hour and a half from a medical center," said Sides, a veteran of emergency health and home health nursing. "This provides an early intervention and may help us catch early signs of illness."

The agency currently has 11 telehealth units it can distribute to home health clients based on need to supplement other services provided by the agency. Some units have the video component, while other are more basic monitoring units that allow the patient to determine his or her own vital signs and transmit them to the Bangor office via telephone.

"Technology has changed home care delivery in ways unimaginable even 10 years ago," said Helen Burlock, director of CHCS Home Health and Hospice. "Home telehealth services now provide a quality supplement to traditional nursing visits. CHCS is both excited and proud to bring this technology to our clients. We believe it is a tool that will increase access to health care and improve outcomes for clients with certain types of illnesses. The equipment is easy to use and promotes frequent communication between clients and their nurses."

Community Health and Counseling Services is a private, nonprofit home health and mental health agency serving the people, families and communities of northern and eastern Maine. For more information about CHCS home health services, access the agency's Web site at or call 1-800-924-0366.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.