Telementoring with Project ECHO: A pilot study in Europe

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Abstract The Extension of Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) project is a novel educational intervention designed in New Mexico to transfer subspecialty knowledge about hepatitis C virus (HCV) to primary care providers, thereby increasing patient access to HCV care. The ECHO model has been shown to deliver educational benefits and to result in good treatment outcomes for HCV-infected individuals in the USA; however, this approach has not been assessed in a European setting. We sought to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability and implementation of the ECHO model in Ireland using a pilot study. We present a descriptive review of recruitment, participation, retention and cost of the intervention as well as a qualitative review of the views of participants on the barriers, benefits and acceptability of the ECHO model. In the original Project ECHO in New Mexico, geographical distance posed the greatest barrier to accessing HCV care. In Ireland, people who inject drugs (PWID) were identified by interviewees as the main group facing barriers to accessing specialist HCV care. State-employed doctors and nurses caring for large numbers of HCV-infected PWID in opiate substitution treatment centres and homeless hostels were successfully recruited to participate in the project. Self-employed general practitioners did not participate, due mainly to a lack of time and the absence of reimbursement for participation. Practitioners who participated in the pilot reported benefits to themselves and their patients and would like to continue to participate in similar multidisciplinary, multisite educational interventions in the future.