Utilizing the ECHO Model in the Veterans Health Affairs System: Guidelines for Setup, Operations and Preliminary Findings

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Background: In 2011, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) consulted with the Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) team at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, to reproduce their successful model within the VHA. Methods: The VHA launched SCAN-ECHO (Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a multisite videoconferencing system to conduct live clinical consultations between specialists at a VHA Medical Center (hospital) and primary care providers stationed at satellite VHA CBOCs (Community-Based Outpatient Clinic). Results: Analysis of the first three years rendered a mean attendee satisfaction of 89.53% and a consultation satisfaction score of 88.10%. About half of the SCAN-ECHO consultations resulted in patients receiving their treatment from their local primary care providers; the remaining half were referred to the VHA Medical Center when the treatment involved equipment or services not available at the CBOCs (e.g., MRI, surgery). Conclusion: This paper details the setup, operation logistics and preliminary findings, suggesting that SCAN-ECHO is a viable model for providing quality specialty clinical consultation service, prompter access to care, reduced commutes and continuing education. Additionally, the use of a secured Internet-based videoconferencing system that supports connectivity to multiple (mobile) devices could expand the utilization of this service.