Telehealth, the delivery of medical services through video technology, has played a prominent role in our response to the COVID-19 crisis. In Maine alone, Northern Light Health went from a couple hundred visits per month to over 36,000 in April.

Unfortunately, Maine’s current broadband infrastructure cannot support this important service. Broadband Now ranks Maine 43rd in the nation for broadband access, and our average internet speed was recently rated the third slowest. Rural areas such as Oxford, Waldo and Washington counties are behind – the areas hit hardest by socioeconomic, health care and educational disparities. This regional gap in resources will only widen if we don’t act to increase internet access.

I’ve witnessed this critical need as I’ve cared for patients remotely. I have come to learn that sensitive medical discussions are far easier around the kitchen table than in the doctor’s office. Unfortunately, I’ve also experienced dropped calls, stuttering video and phone-only visits.

On July 14, Question 1 asks Mainers to support an investment in high-speed internet infrastructure for unserved and underserved areas. Say “yes” on 1 for rural Maine.

Michael Ross, M.D., FAAP, FACMI

regional medical information officer and general pediatrician,
Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center

Bangor

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