Project ECHO
Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) expands access to healthcare by helping primary care clinicians in rural and underserved areas manage complex diseases. They do this by consulting with medical specialists via video conferencing technology.
Credit: John Arnold

Project ECHO, the University of New Mexico’s telehealth and telementoring program, is steadily expanding its global reach, having recently passed the threshold of 100 replication partners at locations around the world.

“It is gratifying to see that the dedicated work of the ECHO Institute team at the UNM Health Sciences Center is having an impact on underserved patients around the world,” said Sanjeev Arora, MD, Project ECHO’s founder and director.

The program has now been implemented by 103 partners – 64 in the U.S. and 39 internationally. The ECHO system is operating in 19 countries, covering more than 55 complex conditions and problems.

Project ECHO was launched in 2003, to improve access to care for patients with hepatitis C in underserved communities and prisons in New Mexico. Arora, a professor in the UNM Department of Internal Medicine, and a liver disease specialist, developed the model after he realized that one of the greatest barriers to care for hepatitis C was a lack of trained clinicians who could treat the condition.

He hypothesized that if primary care clinicians were given the opportunity to receive ongoing education in best-practices, mentoring and guidance from a team of specialists via teletechnology, then they would feel more confident in treating their hepatitis C patients locally.

That hypothesis was proven correct with the publication in 2011 of a prospective cohort study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which demonstrated that treatment for hepatitis C using the ECHO model is as safe and effective as treatment at an academic medical center.

As a direct result of these positive outcomes, demand to replicate the model rose dramatically and continues to grow each year.

Together, Project ECHO and its partners share a vision of touching the lives of 1 billion people by 2025 through a hub-and-spoke model – the specialist teams at the hub train community clinicians at the spokes. This is truly a global effort to improve access, decrease disparities and showcase UNM on the international stage.