Sanjeev Arora, MD
UNM liver disease specialist Sanjeev Arora, MD, founded Project ECHO, an innovative telementoring model that expands access to specialty medical care in rural and underserved communities.

Children with chronic diseases who live in remote areas will get access to much needed specialty care, under a new program being led by the University of New Mexico's Project ECHO.  

Under the ECHO model, developed at the Unviversity of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, primary care providers in rural and underserved areas can discuss a patient's clinical care with specialists in large medical centers, using teleconferencing technology. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) will serve as one of four new “superhubs” for Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), with the goal of expanding access to specialized pediatric care for conditions like epilepsy.

“We want to move knowledge, not patients, to bring more care to more people, where they live,” said Sanjeev Arora, MD, creator of the ECHO model and director of the ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque. “With the new superhubs on board, we are entering a new and exciting phase of this collective effort. Together, we want to change the world, fast.”

Arora will discuss the project Oct. 25 at the AAP National Conference and Exhibition in Washington, DC, during an address titled “Changing the World of Pediatrics: How Telementoring Can Aid in Reaching Children Globally.”

“We are thrilled to have the American Academy of Pediatrics as our partner,” Arora said. “This is a groundbreaking step in using the ECHO model to advance pediatric care globally. We believe this will be truly transformative.”

In addition to the AAP, other ECHO superhubs include University of Wyoming ECHO, ECHO Northern Ireland and ECHO India. The superhubs will launch projects creating new access to services for issues ranging from specialized pediatric care to learning disabilities, behavioral health and palliative care.

The goal of Project ECHO is to touch 1 billion lives by 2025.

The AAP has been an ECHO partner since September 2013, starting with a grant to the UNM Health Sciences Center and ECHO for pediatric epilepsy, and later expanding to support teleECHO clinics at five hubs to treat children and youth with epilepsy as well as one hub focusing on pediatric growth and endocrinology.   

Replication of the ECHO model is achieved through the creation of ECHO “hubs,” regional centers that provide mentoring and guided practice to local provider sites or “spokes” via weekly teleECHO sessions supported by videoconferencing technology. Participating primary care providers at the community spoke sites gain specialty expertise and knowledge that enables them to treat patients with complex, chronic conditions in or near their home communities.

“In areas where children with chronic diseases may not be able to access a medical specialist, Project ECHO provides a way for primary care physicians to work in tandem with specialists to care for children,” said Sucheta M. Joshi, MD, who helped develop the curriculum on epilepsy care for new ECHO sites. “This can be a powerful tool to educate and enable physicians to care for children with challenging medical issues in their community.”

For more information, visit the Project ECHO website.