The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus will partner with several health care and public health organizations across the state to develop ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes) Colorado, funded by a nearly $3.3 million grant over two years from the Colorado Health Foundation. First developed at the University of New Mexico, the ECHO model is a system of peer learning networks using video teleconferencing designed to improve both primary health care and public health programs.
“ECHO is an effective way to use modern communications and modern learning principles to improve both primary health care and public health,” said Tim Byers, MD, MPH, director of ECHO Colorado and of the Center for Public Health Practice at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz. “We look forward not only to replicating the many successes of this strong learning model shown in New Mexico and other states, but also to adapting the ECHO model based on the principles of peer learning, case-based learning and practical skills advancement in a time-efficient system.”
From the ECHO Colorado Program Center at CU Anschutz, this new statewide program will support the growth of clinical capabilities of rural primary care providers, thus increasing access for patients needing specialty care for complex chronic conditions like autism, hepatitis, diabetes or epilepsy. ECHO Colorado will also support the growth and performance of public health programs in areas such as obesity, tobacco control, infectious disease control and community health worker effectiveness. ECHO Colorado will engage many different sectors, including primary care, mental health and public health; many different disciplines, including medicine, nursing, oral health, community health workers and pharmacy; and many different organizations, including hospitals, community clinics, local health agencies and schools.
The program is designed to confront a major health care problem common in Colorado and other states with substantial urban/rural disparities. Patients in rural or underserved areas face long distances and travel expenses just to have appointments with specialists who are typically located closer to urban areas. ECHO Colorado will make specialty expertise more available to rural general practitioners, enabling rural physicians to keep their training up-to-date with the latest medical treatments and innovations. The goal is to improve the ability of rural providers to treat diverse health challenges on-site, so more patients will receive timely care in their home communities throughout Colorado.
“ECHO Colorado offers us an opportunity to develop a best-practice knowledge network so that every primary care clinician in Colorado can practice at the top of his or her licensure, can co-manage patients with top-ranked specialists, and allow patients and their families the convenience of this level of care in their own communities,” said CU Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology John “Fred” Thomas, PhD, who serves as co-director of ECHO Colorado and director of Telemedicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “It is such a wonderful opportunity we have here with our primary care partners to build partnerships that will improve care coordination, continuity and communication.”
Governed by a 15-member community board, the ECHO Colorado Program Center will work with Colorado Medicaid as a key partner as well as:
- Denver Health
- The Colorado Community Health Network
- The Colorado Rural Health Center
- The Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials
- Colorado Area Health Education Centers offices across Colorado
- The Patient Navigator Training Program
- The Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center
“This initiative will not only improve the health and quality of life for countless citizens of Colorado, but it enables the university to expand and truly elevate its educational outreach to medical professionals across the state by leveraging our partnerships with state and regional health organizations,” said Don Elliman, chancellor for CU Anschutz.
The Colorado Health Foundation’s financial commitment to ECHO Colorado aligns well with its mission of making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. Other funding for the project comes from diverse sources including the American Academy of Pediatrics who has provided funding for Colorado CYE (Children and Youth with Epilepsy ECHO) and the Colorado Department of Health Care Financing and Policy, which received funding from the Colorado Legislature in 2014 for a chronic pain ECHO program.
The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is the only comprehensive academic health sciences center in Colorado, the largest academic health center in the Rocky Mountain region and one of the newest education, research and patient care facilities in the world. Home to almost 19,000 employees, more than 4,100 degree-seeking students and two nationally recognized hospitals, CU Anschutz trains the health sciences workforce of the future and fuels the economy. CU Anschutz features schools of medicine, pharmacy, dental medicine and public health, a college of nursing and a graduate school.