Improving Talk Through Telemedicine 

Icy weather wasn’t going to stop a Searsmont man from making his doctor’s appointment Monday.

That’s because Tom Edgecomb was actually saving himself a trip to Philadelphia for the procedure.

Joy Hollowell shows us how technology made it all possible.

“How am I doing here, coach?” asks Michael Towey.

Towey is the manager of the Voice and Swallowing Center of Maine in Belfast. He has worked with Tom Edgecomb for sometime now. Two years ago, the Searsmont man had his voice box removed due to cancer. In fact, it was Towey who taught Edgecomb how to speak without the use of a microphone.

“So Lindsey, which one of the base plates are we going to use?” asks Towey, picking up a plastic bag.

The facility, located inside Waldo County General Hospital, is breaking new territory. Towey is working with clinical specialist Lindsey Lambert Gordon whose showing him how to place a new breathing device in Edgecomb’s throat. What makes this so unique is that Lambert Gordon is hundreds of miles away in New Hampshire.

“This is the tricky stuff for me,” says Towey.

“You’ve got that exactly right,” assures Lambert Gordon as she peers into the web camera video.

“These devices are really, really important for people because with a laryngectomy, you are breathing unfiltered air and that can cause a lot of problems and hospital admission,” explains Towey.

The new device has a filter on it, which will help Edgecomb breathe better and provide moisture for his lungs to prevent infections. Edgecomb has been driving all the way down to Philadelphia for his treatments, but thanks to telemedicine, this procedure could be done just 8 miles away from his home.

“Can you feel it?” asks Lambert Gordon.

Edgecomb nods his head yes.

“Does it feel uncomfortable?” she asks.

“No, it ain’t bad,” Edgecomb answers.

“A lot of the time in the territory that I cover, patients are driving 3,4,5,6, 7 hours for their follow up appointments,” Lambert Gordon explains.

Towey successfully fitted another patient with the device several weeks earlier, also using the cyber clinic.

“I believe it’s the first time it’s ever been done, actually on the planet,” says Towey. “Because now we don’t have to talk about just state or the United States, but it’s really planet. We’ve since presented this at two national conferences, medical conferences, and I’ve yet to have anyone come up to me and say -oh, we’ve been doing that for years.'”

“We made history again here, Lindsey, you know?” says Towey, smiling into the web camera. “We’re making history.”
The Voice and Swallowing Center of Maine provides more than 10,000 minutes of speech therapy each month to homes and schools around Maine, using telemedicine.

They also work with children internationally including two in Russia.