ECHO stands for Extensions for Community Healthcare Outcomes. ECHO increases Primary Care Providers’ (PCP) skills and confidence in managing specific complex chronic conditions through weekly case-based learning video-conferencing sessions.
When PCPs in remote, rural and under-served areas receive this support through ECHO, their patients gain from receiving best-practice care by their care providers close to home, avoiding long wait times and travel for specialty care. .
The ECHO model has been applied to many chronic diseases, however all ECHOs follow four key principles:
- Video-conferencing technology connects primary care providers with each other and with specialists.
- Best practices are shared to reduce variation in care;
- Knowledge is transferred through case--based learning to develop skills, confidence and specialty expertise among PCPs.
- Outcomes of ECHO are evaluated on an ongoing basis.
ECHO was first developed at the University of New Mexico in 2003 to address large numbers of deaths and illness associated with Hepatitis C. ECHO was used to connect the academic health centre in Albuquerque with rural clinicians willing to treat patients with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) in their home communities. Using a hub and spoke model, clinical experts at the academic ‘hub’ connect with multiple PCP ‘spoke’ sites. Since 2003, there have been over 40 successful ECHO replications focused on a variety of medical issues (chronic pain, mental health and addictions, endocrinology and diabetes, rheumatology, etc).