By Eric Wicklund, mHealth Intelligence | June 12, 2019
The American Medical Association is throwing its support behind two telemedicine models that aim to improve provider education and patient access to care in rural and underserved parts of the country.
During its Annual Meeting this week, the AMA adopted a policy to encourage implementation of Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) and Child Psychiatry Access Project (CPAP) programs by academic health centers and community-based primary care physicians. Both programs use connected health technology to give primary care providers in remote areas access to resources, peer support and specialist consults to improve care management for their patients.
“These training models offer a unique solution to specialty physician shortages by expanding the competencies and skills of physicians who are already providing patient care in our communities, rather than looking exclusively at increasing the physician workforce as the answer,” AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, MD, said in an AMA press release. “The AMA supports multiple methods to help ease existing and predicted shortages, and we will continue to work toward ensuring more people have access to high quality health care.”
Developed in 2003 at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine by Sanjeev Arora, MD, a liver disease doctor based in Albuquerque who wanted to improve care management and coordination for patients with hepatitis C, Project ECHO programs use a hub-and-spoke telemedicine model to connect rural and remote practitioners with specialists to discuss cases that would otherwise be sent to large — and distant — health systems.
They’re now being used in more than 170 locations in dozens of states and 34 countries, and are the subject of The Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act of 2019 (ECHO 2019 Act), introduced in May by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), which seeks to expand federal funding and technical assistance.
In a letter sent in March to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the AMA identified the Project ECHO model as a “promising strategy” to help the nation’s care providers improve pain care and treatment, which in turn would help in the effort to control the opioid abuse epidemic. That same month, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) issued a callfor payers to embrace telemedicine – in particular, Project ECHO programs – to expand substance abuse treatment opportunities.
The CPAP model was developed in 2004 in Massachusetts. Similar to Project ECHO, it use telemedicine to connect child and adolescent psychiatrists with primary care pediatricians for mentoring and training on care for children with behavioral health needs.