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Project ECHO Takes on Rural Health Care Shortages

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The OSU Center for Health Sciences launches a new initiative designed to improve healthcare in rural and underserved areas of Oklahoma.

Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a collaborative model of medical education and care management that empowers clinicians in rural and underserved communities to provide specialty care to more people right where they live.

Simply put, ECHO uses video conferencing to help rural areas access experts in various fields to provide better patient care.  Unlike tele-medicine where a single provider can see a patient, ECHO is a tool for multiple providers to collaborate and make recommendations regardless of where they’re based.

“OSU Project ECHO is a multidisciplinary care team comprised of specialists, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, social workers, and other healthcare professionals who are trained in treating specific diseases to change community healthcare outcomes,” said Joseph Johnson, D.O., Department Chair and Medical Director OSU Project ECHO.
The OSU Center for Health Sciences will launch its first ECHO this week with Psychiatry. Future ECHOs will focus on: Addiction Medicine, HIV/AIDS, Obesity Medicine, and Women’s Health. Other specific health needs are being assessed for future topics.

"The OSU Psychiatry ECHO allows primary care providers to diagnose and treat mental health conditions using evidence based guidelines without referring the patient.  This will help to dramatically decrease the number of referrals to psychiatrists, which often have months long waiting lists. It also allows patients to stay in their hometown instead of driving several hours and hundreds of miles," said Jason Beamon, D.O., Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at OSU Center for Health Sciences.

“During the videoconference, rural providers at remote sites will present active, de-identified patient cases to the OSU Project ECHO care team. The OSU Project ECHO care team will review the cases and recommend treatment options so patients get the right care, at the right place, at the right time to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs,” says Johnson.

Dr. Sanjeev Arora, the director of Project ECHO, came up with the concept a decade ago. This concept uses technology to link experts in various medical fields to consult and advise underserved and rural physicians on how to give specialized care to patients using real cases in real time.  Project ECHO now operates 39 hubs in 22 states, OSU Center for Health Sciences being the first in Oklahoma.

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