Missouri is reportedly becoming the first state to publicly fund a telehealth project that uses videoconferencing to educate primary care providers around the state.
The Missouri Telehealth Network has received $1.5 million to create the Show-Me Extension for Community Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, offering training for specialized treatment in diabetes care, hepatitis C, dermatology, chronic pain management, autism and childhood asthma.
The program, based at the University of Missouri, connects providers around the state by video with a panel of experts. The Missouri Telehealth Network is looking to partner with healthcare providers around the state to include a wide variety of health conditions and issues.
The Project ECHO program was first developed at the University of New Mexico, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with the goal of breaking down the walls between specialty and primary care. It connects clinicians in local communities – often small, rural or underserved areas – with experts at a "hub" site for weekly teleECHO clinics, during which the clinicians present patient cases to the specialists and each, discuss new developments and determine treatment.
The program has been replicated around the country in some two dozen locations, from Hawaii to Massachusetts (a program based at the University of Washington in Seattle branches out to several states, including Alaska). According to BolivarMoNews.com, Missouri is the first state to commit appropriated funds for the program.
“ECHO is an added layer to the existing telehealth services in Missouri,” Karen Edison, MD, medical director of the Missouri Telehealth Network, director of the Center for Health Policy and chairperson of the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology, told the news site. “By training primary care providers, we are not only increasing access but also the number of patients who will receive treatment. This allows patients in rural areas to receive care without needing to leave their own community.”