The Expanding Connectivity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act, which recently passed the Senate with bipartisan support, takes an important step toward expanding Project ECHO.
Project ECHO is an innovative “hub and spoke” education model created at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, a member of America’s Essential Hospitals. Through the use of interactive video conferencing, the project connects specialist teams with primary care providers to bring specialty knowledge to rural and underserved areas. The Project ECHO model can increase access to high-quality care for patients while providing fast education of local providers during a public health crisis.
The Senate bill calls on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to study this important telehealth model and its effect on:
- treating certain health conditions;
- health care workforce issues;
- implementing public health programs; and
- delivering health care services in underserved areas.
Under the bill, HHS also would need to examine the prospects of expanding the use of models like Project ECHO. Currently, several members of America’s Essential Hospitals, including the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, University of Chicago Medicine, University of Missouri Health Care, and others, are participating as superhubs in the model.