Posted on Oct 23, 2019

Project ECHO Connects Rural Providers with Health Experts

Project ECHO Connects Rural Providers with Health Experts

A new health care collaborative teaching model that uses video conferencing to connect rural health care providers with USF Health experts to deliver palliative care and behavioral health is seeing success and will likely continue beyond its six-month trial session.

The goal of Project ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes) at USF is to train rural health care providers — who often see older patients, but lack local expertise and resources — on ways to deliver palliative care, according to USF College of Nursing assistant professor Janet Roman, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, CHFN, ACHPN.

Dr. Roman, who joined the College of Nursing in February, is one of two USF professors offering their expertise during the monthly hourlong clinics that began in August.

In April, Dr. Roman traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to attend the ECHO Institute training to learn about the model. Since then, she has helped organize and launch the Project ECHO hub at USF. The initiative is partly funded by the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and is a joint project between GWEP and the Florida Rural Health Association.

She teamed up with USF College of Aging Studies professor Victor Molinari, PhD, ABPP, who is an expert in behavioral health. She helped recruit rural health care providers interested in the new case-based learning initiative.

“It’s kind of like the ‘Each one, teach one’ model,” said Dr. Roman. “We’re hoping by the end of the sixth clinic, they will feel comfortable delivering palliative care to their patients.”

She says the project has been so successful, that when the initial six-month project ends in November, she will reevaluate, but sees the Project ECHO hub continuing in some form. There are teleconferencing hubs all over the country and the world that focus on various topics.

“It is making a difference,” said Dr. Roman. “You can tell by the questions that folks are starting to ask. You can reach so many people, so I have to see where the need is.”

During the lunchtime sessions over the web-based video conferencing platform Zoom, one of the professors or guest expert begins with a 15-minute didactic lesson and then each participating rural health provider presents specific patient cases so the specialists can share their expertise.

Dr. Roman said Project ECHO not only gives rural nurse practitioners or physicians access to critical resources and best practices, but since providers can typically only see one patient each hour, the group conferencing model can reach multiple patients over the 60 minutes.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing