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Telemedicine Initiative Expands Across State Lines

September 11, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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A Middletown, Ct.-based primary care system, Community Health Center Inc., is expanding its telehealth program for underserved patients across state lines to Delaware, the provider announced this week.

The initiative, Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), uses video-conferencing and case-based learning to expand access to specialty care for underserved patients. It has specialists and primary care providers join together a weekly video conference session during which they discuss cases and explore treatment options for patients with complex illnesses such as Hepatitis C.

The latest to join this initiative is Westside Family Healthcare, a network of community health centers in Delaware, which is supported, CHC says, by Delaware Health and Social Services' (DHSS) Division of Public Health (DPH), Delaware Prescription Drug Action Committee (PDAC), and Delaware Telehealth Coalition.

"The goal of Project ECHO is to increase the competency of Delaware health providers to manage complex pain conditions," stated Gerard Galluci, M.D., DHSS Medical Director. "Pain management is an important area of focus for the health care community and the project also helps build our capacity to utilize innovative technology for new treatment options."

The ECHO program, which is nationwide, has grown significantly over the past few years, dating back to 2011 when CHC first became involved after being inspired by a similar initiative in New Mexico. In June, ECHO leaders announced it was going to be expanded to focus on mental healthcare, and for the creation of a national institute that will replicate the model throughout the country.

"We are thrilled to see Project ECHO breaking geographical boundaries with the use of telehealth technology to address a serious health issue that is prevalent in both states," stated Daren Anderson, M.D., VP and Chief Quality Officer of CHC.  “There is no single approach to managing chronic pain. This format will bring together experts in pharmacology, behavioral health, primary care and alternative therapies, offering myriad solutions to this complex issue, based on the needs of each individual patient -- and the broad range of expertise from multiple clinicians."

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