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BACKGROUND: Pain assessment and management in advanced and end-stage dementia are challenging; patients are at risk of under-diagnosis, under-assessment and under-treatment. Previous research has highlighted the importance of needs-driven training and development in this area for physicians, nurses and healthcare assistants (HCAs) across specialties, disciplines and care settings. This study used teleconferencing technology to connect healthcare professionals across multiple settings and disciplines in real-time clinics, based on the Project ECHO© model. This paper reports the evaluation of the clinics by physicians, nurses and HCAs, including their knowledge and self-efficacy in pain assessment and management for patients with advanced and end-stage dementia.

METHODS: A mixed method evaluation comprising quantitative survey of self-reported knowledge and self-efficacy pre- and post-ECHO clinic participation, and qualitative exploration of experiences of the clinics using focus group interviews. A census approach to sampling was undertaken. Pre- and post-ECHO evaluations were administered electronically using Survey Monkey software. Mann-Whitney U tests were used to explore differences in knowledge and self-efficacy scores pre- and post-ECHO clinic participation. Statistical significance was set a-priori at p = 0.05. Focus groups were video- and audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using Braun & Clarke's model of thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Eighteen healthcare professionals [HCPs] (physicians [n = 7], nurses [n = 10], HCA [n = 1]) and twenty HCPs (physicians [n = 10], nurses [n = 10]) completed pre- and post-ECHO evaluations respectively, reporting improvements in knowledge and self-efficacy on participation in ECHO clinics and perceived utility of the clinics. Seven HCPs (physicians [n = 2], nurses [n = 5]) participated in two focus groups. Four themes emerged: knowledge and skills development and dissemination; protected time; areas for improvement; and the future of ECHO.

CONCLUSIONS: Telementoring clinics for HCP education and training in pain assessment and management in advanced and end-stage dementia demonstrate a positive impact on knowledge and self-efficacy of HCPs and highlight the value of a cross-specialty network of practice which spans across disciplines/HCP types, care settings and geographical areas. Further development of ECHO services in this and in other clinical areas, shows significant potential to support delivery of high-quality care to complex patient populations.