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TMCNet:  GE Foundation Intensifies Push to Transform Access to Healthcare in Local Communities; Awards $14 Million Grant to Project ECHO®

[July 20, 2015]

GE Foundation Intensifies Push to Transform Access to Healthcare in Local Communities; Awards $14 Million Grant to Project ECHO®

As part of its goal to ensure that everyone can get quality healthcare regardless of where they live, the GE Foundation today announced a three-year, $14 million grant to support Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), and its game-changing care delivery model that exponentially increases treatment capacity for common, complex conditions in medically underserved areas.

The Foundation's funding will help dramatically increase the number of U.S. federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) participating in Project ECHO nationwide. Through ECHO, community-based primary care providers train in a select specialty area, such as HIV/AIDS or behavioral health, so that patients can get the specialty care they need in their own communities.

In addition, Project ECHO will partner with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to design and implement a quality improvement ECHO program to support FQHCs in improving effectiveness and efficiency.

According to Dr. David Barash, Executive Director, Global Health Portfolio, and Chief Medical Officer, GE Foundation, expanding the ECHO model™ across the United States will help ensure that more people with difficult-to-treat health problems can access the care they need, quickly and efficiently.

"The ECHO model is transformative," Dr. Barash 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."

For millions of Americans, access to specialty care for common, complex health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or chronic pain is extremely challenging. Many patients must travel hours in order to see a specialist, while others forgo the specialty care they need.

Project ECHO creates new capacity to treat chronic complex conditions in local communities by expanding the skill sets of the providers who are already there. It links community providers with specialist care teams at academic medical centers to manage patients who require complex specialty care. Using basic videoconferencing technology, they participate in weeklyteleECHO™ clinics, where primary care providers from multiple sites present patient cases and work with a multi- disciplinary team of experts to determine treatment. The team mentors community providers to treat conditions that previously were outside their expertise.

Unlike telemedicine, which facilitates one-to-one connections in order to provide patient care, Project ECHO creates one-to-many connections among providers to exponentially increase treatment capacity.

An evaluation of the ECHO model published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that hepatitis C care provided by ECHO-trained community clinicians was as good as care provided by university specialists. The study also showed that the ECHO model can reduce - and even eliminate - racial and ethnic disparities in treatment outcomes by bringing more services to minority communities.

Project ECHO launched in 2003 at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, with a focus on treating hepatitis C and has since grown significantly across the globe and across numerous other health conditions. In the U.S., dozens of academic medical centers operate teleECHO clinics that address more than 40 health conditions. Globally, teleECHO clinics are running in 10 countries. The Department of Veterans Affairs has its own version of Project ECHO, and the Department of Defense has a global ECHO chronic pain management program.

"Everyone should be able to get the healthcare they need, when they need it, where they live," said Dr. Sanjeev Arora, the liver disease specialist and social innovator who created 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."

ABOUT PROJECT ECHO

Project ECHO is a lifelong learning and guided practice model that revolutionizes medical education and exponentially increases workforce capacity to provide best-practice specialty care and reduce health disparities. The heart of the ECHO modelĀ is its hub-and-spoke knowledge-sharing networks, led by expert teams who use multi-point videoconferencing to conduct telementoring sessions with community providers. In this way, primary care doctors, nurses, and other clinicians learn to provide excellent specialty care to patients in their own communities. Learn more at unm.echo.edu and on Twitter @UNMProjectECHO.

ABOUT THE GE FOUNDATION

The GE Foundation, the philanthropic organization of GE, is committed to building a world that works better. We empower people by helping them build the skills they need to succeed in a global economy. We equip communities with the technology and capacity to improve access to better health and education. We elevate ideas that are tackling the world's toughest challenges to advance economic development and improve lives. The GE Foundation is powered by the generosity and talent of our employees, who have a strong commitment to their communities. Follow the GE Foundation at http://www.gefoundation.com and on Twitter at @GE_Foundation.


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