1. Rural patients have limited access to quality specialty care for common complex conditions.
  2. Rural healthcare providers want to advance their skills, career, and professional relationships but may lack access to knowledge and training to provide specialty care for their patients. Many rural providers feel socially and professionally isolated which contributes to hospital problems with recruitment and retention.

Potential Solution:  Participate in Project ECHO©

Project ECHO®, Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, established by the University of New Mexico, aims to ultimately improve patient care by connecting health care providers and professionals in rural, isolated communities with specialized clinical and operational expertise. The Project ECHO® model emerged as a result of a liver disease specialist’s frustration that New Mexico residents living with Hepatitis C were not able to access timely care and treatment due to the severely limited availability of specialists in the state.  His response was to share with primary care providers the knowledge and skills required to manage the care of their Hepatitis C patients prior to and after specialty care visits.

Through a secure video connection, Project ECHO® brings to multiple communities a live panel of subject matter experts that are available to share their knowledge and advice with clinical providers, administrators, and para health professionals. These sessions, called “clinics”, are typically 1-2 hours in length with a didactic lecture and patient case presentations after which the expert panel advises on treatment options. The results of this process are a measurably higher quality of care and improved timely access to that care for those who live in rural areas as well as more appropriate consultation for those who were ultimately sent to a larger medical center for evaluation by the specialist.  Patients get the right care, in the right place, at the right time which improves outcomes and reduces cost. Since the inception concept, additional ECHO® hubs have been established that focus on a variety of disease conditions and health care system delivery needs prevalent in isolated, rural communities.

Project ECHO® has revolutionized medical education and exponentially increased workforce capacity to provide best practice specialty care and reduce health disparities.  The model moves knowledge out to rural communities rather than moving the patient. The Center for Optimizing Rural Health (CORH) leadership believes that this model is adaptable, offering a proven mechanism for an urban academic health science center to impart knowledge and best practices to rural hospital leadership.

CORH hosts multiple clinics every month for cohorts of rural hospitals to both learn about best practices and to develop a peer mentoring process for administration case studies rather than patient case studies.  Didactic presentations are made by subject matter experts, followed by community facility leaders presenting cases from their current experience and group discussion about possible or recommended process changes to address the presented problem.  Subject matter experts will be present for these clinics to enable mentoring and feedback from specialists.

Links for Additional Information:

http://optimizingruralhealth.org/ – Watch for the application to join our hospital network ECHO

https://echo.unm.edu/  – Home page for Project ECHO© at the University of New Mexico.  Sign up for the MetaECHO newsletter, find an ECHO program that fits your needs, participate in a teleECHO clinic to learn more, or utilize the website to learn more about ECHO and sign up for training events.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]