Friday, December 2, 2016

Kansas Project ECHO Team Encouraged by New ECHO Act S.2873

On November 29, 2016, The U.S. Senate advanced the ECHO Act. It was endorsed 97 to 0 by the 114th Congress, including Kansas’ senators. The expansion is very timely with KU Center for Telemedicine’s growing ECHO (Extension of Community Healthcare Outcomes) program, and upcoming ECHOs in pain management, pediatric behavioral health, pediatric obesity and asthma.

Senator Orin Hatch of Utah, one of the co-sponsors of the Senate bill, noted, “Our legislation improves medical services for all Americans by providing healthcare professionals in rural and underserved communities with access to a network of peers and specialists who can teach specialty care. By connecting doctors and nurses with teams of experts, patients can receive the care they need when they need it.”

Project ECHO launched in 2003 at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and has grown into dozens of national/international ECHO programs. ECHO clinics have successfully built communities of practice and advanced the co-management of more than 40 chronic conditions across the lifespan.

The federally funded telehealth resource centers have been instrumental in advancing the Project ECHO legislative efforts. Heartland Telehealth Resource Center’s PI, Dr. Eve-Lynn Nelson, notes that our region is looking toward innovative ECHO approaches pairing telemedicine with ECHO.  Her team is also exploring ways ECHO may support rural sites in implementing and sustaining telemedicine services.

The website Congress.gov summarizes the ECHO Act as follows:  This bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in collaboration with the Health Resources and Services Administration, to study technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models and the ability of those models to improve patient care and provider education. (Such models connect specialists to primary care providers through videoconferencing to facilitate case-based learning, dissemination of best practices, and evaluation of outcomes.)

For more information about upcoming ECHOs, please contact KU Center for Telemedicine’s Project ECHO manager, Carla Deckert, at (913) 588-2081.

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