A while back I visited our Board members in Washington state. While there I was lucky to sit in on a physician consultation over the University of Washington’s Telehealth network. It was called Extension for Community Health Care Options (Project ECHO), and allowed primary care providers in rural areas to present cases in which their patients had Hepatitis C and needed specialty care.
The specialist at the University viewed the information presented by the Primary Care Providers (PCP) and asked a few questions (all patient identities were removed from the discussion so that their privacy could be assured). Several physicians were connected to the call and they asked questions about the patient, the treatments the PCP had started and their results. The specialist then offered the latest information and made suggestions based in his research into treatment of the illness.
Project ECHO works because it allows PCPs to present information to and receive guidance from a specialist in the disease process. That allows the patients to receive the best care possible without having to travel to the specialist location and perhaps spend a few days in an expensive ‘big city.’ Project ECHO was started at the University of New Mexico in 2002 and has expanded around the United States since.
An exciting new announcement just came out from the University of Washington and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society: A Project Echo outreach program is being set up in four NRTRC states. PCPs in Washington, Montana, Alaska and Idaho will be able to receive guidance and education from the University of Washington MS Center. What a great addition to the already-existing Telehealth offerings in the region!
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