Project ECHO Undergoes Expansion

Project ECHO, a telemedicine program started at the University of New Mexico is undergoing adoption to become the national model for remote and underserved regions. ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) was started five years ago, out of a need to provide healthcare to patients of rural populations. The Senate recently voted unanimously in favor of the healthcare model that will catapult the shift towards a national network of hub-and-spoke telemedicine platforms to provide literature on telehealth and collaborative opportunities for healthcare providers in underserved areas.

ECHO expansion explained

Legislators said that the changing technological times and the need for training healthcare providers to employ health services through telemedicine in order to reach more patients was the driving force behind the expanded legislation. Telemedicine is a proven method to reach more patients, especially in rural, underserved areas. For example, families living in rural areas with specialized health needs or conditions rely heavily on telemedicine, the platform that is allowing patients to connect with known and trusted providers. These lawmakers said they understood that in many areas access to care is limited, but the need for high quality healthcare should not be lost.

Getting familiar with ECHO

This legislation calls on the Health and Human Services Department to create a report within a two year period on the numerous applications of Project Echo around the country, examining impact on numerous factors around mental health, healthcare workforce issues, delivery of healthcare in rural areas, and so on. Project Echo operates as a hub-and-spoke model, with specialists at hub hospitals conducting virtual teleECHO clinics for providers in rural healthcare systems, or spoke sites. The project was so successful that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs adopted the model.

What’s Next?

As for the team at New Mexico who paved the way for this legislation, they were happy with the outcome, saying they were “proud this pioneering work in New Mexico has become the national model for telehealth.” The next action is now passed to the House, where a companion bill awaits a vote. Make your practice a telemental health provider and be a part of project ECHO by calling a WeCounsel success representative at 888-958-2885!