After using mobile technology to improve health care in some of the world’s poorest places, a local nonprofit program has turned its attention to rural Maine and launched a novel pilot project.
Harrington Family Health Center in Harrington, a small coastal community in Washington County, treats some of the state’s poorest and most at-risk populations for chronic health conditions.
Since July, nurses and physicians at the center have been using tablet computers loaded with dozens of medical-related apps that help them treat patients. The apps include searchable medical encyclopedias, a dosage calculator, a pill identifier and a symptom checker, which allows a nurse to input symptoms and immediately get a list of potential conditions. It also has an app that allows a health care provider to enter a patient’s medications and immediately get information on how those drugs interact and potentially dangerous combinations.
For health care providers who commonly see patients suffering from multiple conditions, the help is welcome, said Lee Humphrey, CEO of the health center, which last year treated roughly 3,500 patients over the course of 14,000 visits.
“While it’s a beautiful area, it has Maine’s poorest population and many of our people have the highest instances of diabetes, heart disease and cancer in the state. We also have the highest early death rate in the state,” Humphrey said. “This device is one more tool to give providers. It’s like having an electronic library at your fingertips.”
The tablets were provided by Health eVillages, a not-for-profit initiative created by Donato Tramuto, a successful Ogunquit businessman and serial entrepreneur. Tramuto is CEO of Massachusetts-based Physicians Interactive, which develops medical-related mobile apps and other technology.
The program was born from Tramuto’s frustration after the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010. At the time, Tramuto was on the board of Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and was troubled by reports of inadequate health care services in Haiti.
“I felt not enough was done to reach this population that even in the best of times struggled with medical resources and information that could help them improve care,” Tramuto said.
Building on what his company already did, he partnered with the human rights group to launch Health eVillages to leverage mobile technology for improving rural health care. The program has done projects in Haiti, East Africa and India. Its first project in the United States was on the Louisiana coast in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. And now Maine, which Tramuto calls home.
“I’ve been very eager to bring this to Maine,” said Tramuto, who also owns two restaurants and an inn in Ogunquit.