Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a teleconsulting and telementoring partnership between MD Anderson specialists and providers in rural and underserved communities.
Build capacity among community based clinicians via case-based learning and co-management of patients by using videoconferencing technology integrated with clinical management tools to connect primary care providers in rural and underserved areas with specialty consultants.
Overview and Proof of Concept
Project ECHO was developed in 2003 by Dr. Sanjeev Arora of the University of New Mexico (UNM) in response to a high prevalence of untreated Hepatitis C (HCV) in the state. Dr. Arora conducted weekly videoconferences with primary care providers in 16 community clinics and 5 prisons in New Mexico. Patient cases were presented, and a multidisciplinary team at the UNM provided clinical mentoring, evidence-based advice on patient management and regular didactic education sessions. At the end of the three year period, the outcomes of patients treated by primary care providers who participated in Project ECHO were no different than patients treated by specialists at UNM. The results of this study were published in 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine and concluded that the ECHO model is safe and effective in helping to manage patients with HCV in underserved communities.
The Project ECHO model has since expanded to manage over 100 complex conditions including infectious diseases, rheumatologic diseases, chronic pain, addiction, HIV, diabetes, complex multisystem disease, cancer prevention and hospice care. Currently over 320 academic centers around the US and globally serve as ECHO hubs.
Recognizing a critical need to address disparities in cancer care, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has been designated as an ECHO superhub for oncology by the ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico Health Science Center (UNMHSC). MD Anderson is one of just nine ECHO superhub sites in the world and the first focused on oncology.
Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) was developed in 2003 to expand local capacity to provide specialty treatments for hepatitis C patients in rural New Mexico. The telementoring ECHO model connects primary care physicians from rural and underserved areas with specialists from academic medical centers to share best-practice management of complex health conditions.
As an ECHO superhub, MD Anderson will collaborate with and train other academic cancer centers interested in using the telementoring ECHO model to improve patient access to high-quality care in rural and underserved areas around the world. The new designation was announced today at MD Anderson by its founder, Sanjeev Arora, M.D., director of Project ECHO at UNMHSC.
“We believe that the ECHO model has great potential to promote greater equity in care delivery across the entire cancer spectrum,” said Ernest Hawk, M.D., vice president and head, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences. “As we build a global partner network of academic and local health care providers through Project ECHO, we will establish projects to improve the capacity for local providers to provide high-quality cancer prevention, screening, and treatment options in their communities.”
Currently, Project ECHO works with 109 partners across the United States and 21 other countries on more than 55 different medical conditions. MD Anderson first established an oncology-focused ECHO program in 2014 with a project aimed at improving cervical cancer prevention, screening and management services in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
In this underserved region along the Texas-Mexico border, cervical cancer rates are as much as 30 percent higher than the rest of the state, primarily due to poor health care access and few local providers trained in cervical cancer management. MD Anderson faculty use the ECHO model to mentor local providers in educating women about the importance of screening and vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as best practices for screenings, diagnostics and early cancer management.
MD Anderson has now established a series of ECHO partnerships across Texas, Latin America and Africa to address needs in tobacco cessation, survivorship and palliative care in addition to cancer prevention, screening and management.
“Through participation in ECHO projects, local providers report both improved knowledge and ability to deliver high-quality care in their communities,” said Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., associate professor, Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. “These rewarding partnerships also foster ongoing collaborative projects and work toward long-term solutions to disparities in cancer care. We hope establishing a broader global network of ECHO partners for oncology will further accelerate our mission.”
Schmeler and Hawk will serve as directors of the MD Anderson ECHO superhub, which is managed by the cancer prevention and control platform, part of MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program™, an ambitious effort to reduce cancer deaths by more rapidly developing and implementing advances in prevention, early detection and treatment based on scientific discoveries. The program comprises 13 moon shots focused on a variety of the most challenging cancers backed by 10 platforms that provide deep expertise, cutting-edge technology and infrastructure.
Train to become an ECHO hub for oncology.
Becoming an ECHO Partner for MD Anderson programs
Follow these steps to become a member:
- Find a program you would like to participate in
- Contact the program coordinators or Melissa Lopez Varon to receive the meeting invitations and information about the ECHO clinics
- Set up the free videoconferencing software (Zoom) and any required hardware that is needed for participation
- Connect to your first ECHO clinic
Videoconferencing (Zoom) Instructions
Follow these steps to connect to a clinic:
- Evidence-based, best practice guidance from specialists
- Case-based "learning-loop"
- Clinical updates and presentations from specialists
- No cost CME, CEU, CNE for participation
- Live Q&A
- Opportunity to translate new knowledge into practice to improve outcomes for patients in their community.
All of our sessions are free, but require a commitment to actively engage in the peer learning community by sharing their experience and presenting cases.
ECHO MD Anderson uses an internet-based video technology called Zoom. Participants can connect to the video sessions through their phone, tablet, laptop, or a computer with a webcam. Technical support is provided.
Any health care professional interested in engaging around a topic, sharing their experience, and learning from their peers can attend ECHO sessions. We welcome physicians, nurses, psychologists, counselors, social workers, healthcare administrators, certified tobacco treatment specialists, patient navigators, pharmacists, and public health practitioners.
Only non-identifiable information is shared during the sessions. Our sessions are HIPAA safe and a secure place to share information.
All non-international sessions include continuing education credit for attending.
Patients do not attend and are not seen during Project ECHO sessions. Instead, these sessions facilitate a way in which community providers connect to specialists who help co-manage patients. Participants can present cases to a specialist or simply join others in the spirit of learning.