Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 21, 2015

GE Foundation Awards Project ECHO a $14 Million Grant

The GE Foundation has announced a $14 million grant to The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center’s Project ECHO to improve healthcare delivery.

“The ECHO model is transformative,” Dr. David Barash, executive director of the global health portfolio, and chief medical officer for the GE Foundation, said. “Instead of making patients travel to where care is available, as the current system does, ECHO makes care available to patients where they live. It empowers front-line primary care clinicians and creates new treatment capacity in rural and underserved communities. As a result, patients get the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Under Project ECHO, which stands for (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) general practitioners in remote areas train to provide care such as mental health, HIV/AIDs and arthritis, which normally requires patients to see a specialist.

Outside of major urban centers, patients with these conditions have to choose either to make a trip to a hospital, which can be inconvenient and expensive, or go without care. With Project ECHO, patients can receive care closer to home.

Videoconferencing makes it possible. Doctors participate in weekly teleECHO clinics, where a specialist at an academic medical center works with primary care doctors to evaluate cases remotely. This is distinct from the emerging telemedicine model where doctors treat patients one-on-one using videoconferencing.

Project ECHO has achieved some impressive results already. The New England Journal of Medicine has found that hepatitis C care under Project is comparable to the same care in university hospitals.

Project ECHO has expanded to 10 countries, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has created its own version. The Defense Department has a similar program for chronic pain management.

With the $14 million grant over the next three years, Project ECHO will be able to expand nationwide.

“Everyone should be able to get the healthcare they need, when they need it, where they live,” said Dr. Sanjeev Arora, a liver specialist who founded Project ECHO. “This support from the GE Foundation will help make access to high-quality specialty care a reality for people in rural and underserved communities. In the process, it will save and improve many, many lives.”

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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