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ECHO Colorado launches to improve health in rural and underserved areas

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Author Ryann Nickerson | Publish Date October 29, 2015

ECHO Colorado (Extension for Community Health Outcomes in Colorado), a statewide professional education initiative, is aimed at connecting health workforces to topic experts to increase
access to specialty care and expert knowledge. Based at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, ECHO Colorado builds learning communities connected by video-conferencing technology across the rural and underserved areas of Colorado to improve health by improving access to knowledge of specialty care and by improving the effectiveness of disease prevention programs.

“ECHO Colorado works with both public health and healthcare organizations to identify needs for education across Colorado,” said Tim Byers, MD, MPH, director of ECHO Colorado and the director of Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz. “It is about connecting health professionals to experts throughout the state who are committed to engaging in a dynamic learning experience.”

This knowledge-sharing model is available to any health professional with an internet connection, making access to peer networking and expert knowledge easy and efficient.

“From Arboles to Walsh, we’d love to see the health workforce in many Colorado rural communities participate in ECHO Colorado,” said John “Fred” Thomas, PhD, co-director of ECHO Colorado. “The program allows us to develop best-practice knowledge networks so that every primary care clinician in Colorado can practice at the top of their licensure and manage patients with top-ranked specialists. This can be done in their own communities.”

Thomas is also the Director of Telemedicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

There are currently three ECHO series, or learning communities, in operation. They focus on pediatric epilepsy, patient navigation and pediatric developmental spectrum. The initiative will launch another 15 topics in the next eight months. Those include neurology, food safety, diabetes & endocrinology, hepatitis C, cancer survivorship, mental health, obesity prevention & nutrition and child abuse prevention.

ECHO Colorado utilizes the ECHO model, a knowledge sharing strategy originally developed at the University of New Mexico. ECHO Colorado is a collaborative effort, governed by community board with multi-disciplinary statewide representation, a Program Center based at CU Anschutz, and a variety of collaborating organizations including the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Finance, the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials, Area Health Education Centers, Denver Health, ClinicNET, the Colorado Rural Health Centers, and the Colorado Community Health Network.

It is supported through diverse funding sources including the Colorado Health Foundation who generously gave a $3.3 million grant to start the program, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Finance, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Health Resources and Services Administration.

To get involved or to learn more, please contact ECHO Colorado at ECHOColorado@ucdenver.edu or visit the website at www.ECHOColorado.org.