ECHO Idaho: Taking on Healthcare Challenges
Idaho has many experienced, dedicated healthcare practitioners committed to patient care. But with one of the nation’s lowest rates of physicians per capita, and a pronounced lack of specialty care providers, Idaho’s remote and underserved communities face daunting challenges – rapidly escalating rates of opioid abuse and heroin possession and a 50 percent increase in age adjusted mortality from 2008 to 2015 among them.
Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), an innovative healthcare outreach program offered through the Idaho WWAMI program at U of I, aims to tackle that problem. The heart of the program’s model is its knowledge-sharing networks, led by expert teams of specialists who conduct bi-weekly video-conferencing training sessions with community providers in far-flung areas to teach and discuss healthcare issues and approaches. In 2018, participants included teams of specialists based in Boise and 200 clinicians from 75 sites across the state. Clinicians seeking advice in the sessions include primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, registered nurses, social workers and more – a broad range of medical and behavioral health professionals eager to learn and apply specialist expertise to improve health and save lives in their communities.
ECHO Idaho sessions include a didactic lecture with technical information on a topic, ranging from prescribing opioids to understanding pain management to assessing and delivering treatment options. A provider then presents a de-identified patient case to the specialist panel and other providers for review. The conversation that follows, with diagnostic and treatment advice, exemplifies what Idaho WWAMI Regional Dean and Director Jeff Seegmiller calls a “community of learners” who can solve unique challenges. “The community is actually solving Idaho problems in an Idaho context,” Seegmiller said. “Some things that work in Boise don’t work in Kendrick, or in Lewiston. But somebody in Lewiston might have a suggestion on how to solve a problem. Project ECHO is actually a workforce multiplier for clinicians to learn how to do things specialists would normally do. That increased capacity improves access to quality care.”
ECHO Idaho currently offers two educational tracks: Opioid Addiction and Treatment focuses on topics related to treating pain and opioid use disorder and Behavioral Health in Primary Care addresses best practices for treating common mental health conditions. Sessions are free to join and participants earn free continuing medical education credit, learn best practices across disciplines, and get feedback on difficult patient cases. Opioid Addiction and Treatment sessions are held on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month from 12:15-1:15 pm MT. Behavioral Health in Primary Care sessions are held on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month from Noon – 1:00pm MT. See full schedules for 2019, view recordings of past sessions, and sign up to participate in either program at www.uidaho.edu/echo. Those with questions can contact Lachelle Smith at echoidaho.edu or 208-364-4698.