What is the ECHO Act?
The Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act, approved unanimously by Congress in late 2016, extends Project ECHO nationwide in attempt to increase access to healthcare resources in rural areas through telehealth solutions and continuing medical education. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) was originally introduced by a University of New Mexico Professor of Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine, Dr. Sanjeev Arora, upon realizing the barriers of providing care to liver disease patients due to the lack of skilled medical clinicians able to treat their condition. The Project began in 2003 as a health IT pilot in rural parts of New Mexico and was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Project ECHO operates as a hub and spoke telemedicine network that connects primary care providers and regional practitioners with specialists from academic hubs via teleconferencing. The technology provided by Project ECHO allows specialists to transport medical education and knowledge to mentor local primary care providers and nurses. Patients living in underserved and rural areas receive high-quality specialty care in the right place at the right time without being burdened by transportation. Since the introduction in 2003, the model has successfully expanded to over 90 academic hubs covering 45 diseases and conditions including pain management and addiction.