Thursday, November 17 is recognized as National Rural Health Day. Maine has the highest percentage of folks living in rural areas in the country, along with vast swaths of uninhabited territory. Maine is wild, and we like it that way.
Delivering rural health care here in Maine is an honor and a challenge, and many intersecting issues impact our ability to deliver equitable care to all Mainers. Cost of delivery and reimbursement rates, access to transportation and childcare for patients and staff, and workforce availability are all factors that complicate the equation. One way that Maine Family Planning has worked to combat inequity is by expanding access to telehealth services. This method of service delivery has been particularly successful in removing barriers to care that can be stigmatized, including abortion care and gender-affirming care. This year more than half of our abortion care patients received care via telehealth, and more than forty percent of Open Door Gender-Affirming Care patients accessed care via telehealth.
We are proud of the investments we made in building out a robust fiber network to connect our 18 community clinics, spanning Fort Kent, to Calais, to Rumford and more. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, we were ready for it thanks to the groundwork we had already done, and we were able to continue serving patients through the combination of our rural clinics and our telehealth network. Today we are continuing to invest in ways to connect patients more easily to birth control, fertility counseling, problem visits, and other services in ways that are as accessible as possible. On our journey, we have found our membership on the Advisory Committee of the Maine Broadband Coalition to be an invaluable resource, connecting us to practical support and thought partners throughout the state and country.
Next month on December 8 and 9, the Maine Broadband Coalition is hosting its Annual Broadband Summit at Thomas College, bringing together people who are passionate about equitable access to excellent, affordable internet access for all kinds of reasons. We hope you can join us. The power of rural can only be fully realized when everyone that wants to be connected, can be.