BANGOR, Maine — Several rural communities in Maine look to their libraries for more than their typical services.
In the spring of 2022, 10 Maine libraries started offering telehealth services, making it easier for Mainers to access the health care they need thanks to the Libraries Health Connect Program initiated by Maine State Library.
After several months of piloting the program, Visser said the library is looking to advance the program, whether that be adding more libraries to the list or improving the technology at existing locations.
The Maine State Library selected 10 libraries by looking at community demographics -- such as age, poverty, education rates -- or indicators that may predict health outcomes, according to Marijke Visser, Maine State Library's Director of library development.
"Where you live shouldn't determine your health outcomes," Visser said.
The telehealth services are currently available at the following 10 libraries:
- Alice L. Pendleton Library (Islesboro)
- Caribou Public Library
- Cary Library (Houlton)
- Fryeburg Public Library
- Henry D. Moore Library (Steuben)
- Paris Public Library (Paris)
- Peabody Memorial Library (Jonesport)
- Pittsfield Public Library
- Skowhegan Free Public Library
- Thompson Free Library (Dover-Foxcroft)
Each library has a private space set up for telehealth appointments, equipped with a laptop, TV monitor, white noise machine, headset, and a camera for patients to use to meet virtually with their doctor.
"We want people to have access to telehealth health care. We want people to feel comfortable, and we want people to be assured that everything is confidential," Jon Knepp, director of Thompson Free Library, said.
Anyone who is interested in using the private room simply needs see whether their health care provider does telehealth visits. Once the medical provider schedules an appointment, the next step is to contact one of the libraries and set up a time to use the private room.
The goal of the program is simply to make health care more accessible for Mainers.
"Living in Maine and rural areas you might have to drive a long way to get to see a specialist, and certainly in the wintertime, like the storm we just had, but in the wintertime that can be an extra challenge," Visser said.
Maine State Library used $50,000 of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds to create the telehealth program.