Project ECHO: telementoring to educate and support prescribing of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis by community medical providers

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Background Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective tool to prevent HIV infection for at-risk individuals, but access requires medical providers to be aware of and comfortable with prescribing PrEP. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) was started to support hepatitis C virus treatment in rural New Mexico, but has since expanded to train health practitioners to treat other medical conditions in other locations.

METHODS: In 2012, a Project ECHO telehealth program was launched to mentor community HIV practitioners in our region. In July 2015, quarterly PrEP didactics and monthly PrEP case discussions were incorporated into this program. The result was a pilot PrEP telementoring intervention. An initial nine-question survey assessed baseline community practitioner knowledge and attitudes towards PrEP, and a follow-up 16-item survey 2 years later assessed the effect of Project ECHO on PrEP knowledge, concerns and prescribing practices.

RESULTS: Twenty-four and 45 medical providers completed the baseline and follow-up surveys respectively. In follow-up, providers reported that Project ECHO participation helped them stay current on PrEP guidelines, improved knowledge, increased likelihood to prescribe PrEP and addressed most concerns about prescribing PrEP. One exception was continued concerns about cost and insurance access, which were addressed by adjusting the didactic curriculum. Many participants reported that the Project ECHO pilot PrEP telementoring intervention assisted them in disseminating PrEP knowledge to other medical providers in their region.

CONCLUSIONS: It is feasible to incorporate PrEP training into Project ECHO distance telementoring programs as a tool to educate community practitioners and support PrEP prescribing.