Dermatology ECHO - an innovative solution to address limited access to dermatology expertise

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INTRODUCTION: The present maldistribution of dermatologists in the USA may make it difficult for patients to access timely and quality care. Access to specialty care may be even more challenging for rural and underserved patients due to geographical limitations and other socioeconomic hardships. With over one-third of primary care patients seeking care for at least one skin problem, it is important to follow the American Academy of Dermatology Special Positioning Workgroup\'s core areas of impact regarding treatment of conditions that affect millions of patients by using a team-based approach and telemedicine technologies. The objective of this study was to demonstrate the Dermatology Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) project approach in multidisciplinary telementoring and education of primary care providers (PCPs) in treatment and management of complex, costly, and common skin diseases via live interactive video technologies.

METHODS: Dermatology ECHO is a distance education telementoring platform that uses a multidisciplinary case-based approach in a non-judgemental environment. A team of specialists, including general dermatologists, pediatric dermatologists, a dermatopathologist, a clinical psychologist, and a nurse practitioner, meets via video with a number of PCPs from isolated, rural, or underserved areas to discuss de-identified patient cases and present dermatology-specific continuing medical education (CME)-approved didactic presentations. The University of Missouri, Department of Dermatology, leads the first Dermatology ECHO in the USA. They partner with various primary care clinics across Missouri to provide mentoring in the treatment of skin conditions. Missouri Telehealth Network provides operational support through the Show-Me ECHO project. The network also assists with provider recruitment activities.

RESULTS: The authors describe a patient case to illustrate the effect of ECHO on provider distance learning and patient outcomes. A 69-year-old woman from rural Missouri was spurred by a rooster. She presented to her primary care clinic six times over a 2-month period. She was prescribed several different medications and underwent tests and one procedure, including vaccination. After the patient\'s case was presented during the Dermatology ECHO session, she was correctly diagnosed with a Mycobacterium skin infection, and new recommendations were made. The patient improved significantly within 2 weeks.

CONCLUSIONS: As specialty medical evidence-based recommendations continue to increase, providers practicing in isolated rural and underserved areas may find it challenging to keep up with the new knowledge. Dermatology ECHO creates a community of practice that allows participating providers to discuss complex cases, receive specific guidance and mentoring, and participate in CME presentations. The case presented here supports the authors\' observations that Dermatology ECHO is an appropriate platform for learning evidence-based medical knowledge via videoconferencing technology.