[news] Maine company brings telemed to workplace
Diabetic employees of a wood products company in Guilford had the opportunity last month to sit down for one-to-one consultations with a world-class diabetes specialist from Tufts Medical Center in Boston. No one, however, had to take time off from work to make the eight-hour round trip for a visit to the doctor’s office.
It was all done online, using video conferencing technology, in what’s being called the first time a Maine business has used telemedicine in the workplace.
Hardwood Products & Puritan Medical Products Co. employs roughly 420 people and manufactures products such as popsicle sticks and wooden skewers on the Hardwood side of the business, to myriad types of medical swabs and tongue depressors on the Puritan side.
It is self-insured and has worked for several years with a company in Gray called Patient Advocates, which manages the company’s health plan and helps its employees navigate the health care industry. Patient Advocates’ goal is to “remove obstacles to quality care,” said Justin Ward, the company’s director of client services.
The telemedicine consults took place on Oct. 11 and allowed seven employees to sit down virtually with Dr. Richard Siegel, co-director of Tufts Medical Center’s Diabetes Center, while guided by one of Patient Advocates’ nurses in a private room at Hardwood & Puritan.
The idea behind the telemedicine program is to improve employees’ access to specialized health care services and reduce health care costs for the company, according to Scott Wellman, chief financial officer of Hardwood & Puritan. Wellman expects there to be as many as 25 employees in the program as it expands.
“Spending a little bit of money up front to get the telemedicine program … is a value purchase,” Wellman told the Bangor Daily News. “We’re able to get [employees] their care plan and hopefully prevent major problems down the road that would cost significantly more money.”