Ellumen Inc. is featured in Telemedicine Magazine’s September Issue for the Crisfield and Smith Island Telemedicine Project. In late 2015, Ellumen began working with Kerry Palakanis, DNP, NP-C, head of the Crisfield Clinic in Crisfield, MD to help improve both day-to-day and emergency healthcare for the neighboring Smith Island (population 276)—located ten miles out into the Chesapeake Bay with no bridge or airstrip, accessible only by boat or helicopter. Mary Vogel, Ellumen’s Vice President of Client Solutions, heads up the project with a small team of engineers and telemedicine experts including Dan Bray, chief engineer, and John Kornak, former University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) Director of Telehealth. Together with the Crisfield Clinic, Ellumen has worked to bring better, more accessible healthcare to all residents, lower the costs associated with telemedicine, and provide a model for successful telemedicine in other remote areas going forward.
Ellumen’s first endeavors in telemedicine began in telecommunications “bonding technology” which consolidates underperforming and underutilized internet service to provide rural and remote areas with a secure, reliable connection. Crisfield was their first test site to prove the technical feasibility of the product. After increasing bandwidth and providing failover at the Clinic through bonded internet, Mary Vogel and her team became aware of the widespread problem with access in the area and Ellumen set out to create a network to span the Chesapeake Bay between Crisfield and Smith Island. This type of connectivity would allow Smith Island residents to have virtual check-ups with their doctors where examinations of spots on the skin to determine if they are cancerous and even more complicated procedures such as sonograms can be conducted with the help of telehealth carts and video. “If it were easy it would have been done already,” Ms. Vogel stated. “Delivering rural healthcare is multidimensional and means addressing the health of the entire Crisfield community, not just connecting one clinic in one remote area.”
While early successes have made a huge impact to help the overall connectivity issue, the Telemedicine Magazine article also calls attention to the regulatory problems that have stood in the way of achieving telehealth’s goals and success. “In rural areas, where you don’t need extensive service, it’s very expensive to buy at a high volume,” Dan Bray is quoted as saying in the article. “So we’re looking at how to stitch together different locations, thinking beyond just solving this link out to Smith Island—trying to afford to buy the bandwidth that makes it all work for everybody.”
The article marks almost four years of continued efforts on behalf of Ellumen to help achieve a fully-realized picture of success in telemedicine and details the challenges that have stood in the way of making telemedicine a reality. “Every week we deliver another win that gets us closer to the ultimate goal of solving rural healthcare for this community. Ultimately, we hope that Ellumen will be able to provide a model for championing healthcare in other underserved communities,” states Mary Vogel.
The article will run in the print copy of Telemedicine Magazine and is also available online here.