Capacity Building in Cancer Screening Using ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes): Innovative and Cost-Effective Model
Background and context: Three most common cancers in India are breast, uterine cervix and oral cavity, together accounting for approximately 34% of all cancers. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India has released an operational guidelines for cancer screening last year and has urged all the states to roll out population based cancer screening at various health care levels. As per these guidelines, the existing health care providers (HCPs) at various facilities would be rolling out the population based cancer screening in the country. However, the existing HCPs lack the skills and are not trained in cancer screening. Considering the size of the country, it is neither a feasible nor economically viable to provide in-person training for all cadres of HCPs. The limitation is comprehensively overcome by ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) model provides a cost effective way to exponentially expand the capacity to mentor and train these HCPs in cancer screening best practices. ECHO as per the motto to “move knowledge rather than patients or doctors”, uses widely available one to many video-conferencing technology, didactic presentations and case based learning techniques to mentor and support HCPs to implement best practices in the field. In teleECHO clinics expert teams at an academic “hub” partner with willing participants to participate in knowledge networks in which all teach and all learn. Aim: To train the health care providers in cancer screening through technology assisted learning. Strategy/Tactics: A structured training program was designed using ECHO platform for all HCPs in separate batches that included, gynecologists, dentists and community health workers (CHWs), by virtual training to address all issues while they roll out cancer screening in their communities. Program/Policy process: A structured course of 20 week-sessions' virtual (online) cancer screening training program for various cadres of health care providers was undertaken. A typical one hour of ECHO session consisted of 25-30 minutes of didactics by the expert followed by 2 case presentations by the spokes. A “Beginner´s program” was well received by the participants who requested us to take it ahead with “Advanced training program” for specialists. Outcomes: 58 participants completed the course in cancer screening. The pre- and posttraining knowledge evaluation demonstrated a significant increase in the knowledge gained by participants. What was learned: In a resource constrained environment it is feasible to develop a basic curriculum in cancer screening program and train and support, all cadres of HCPs. Rolling out a technology enabled model such as ECHO for teaching and training can enable the development of a population based cancer screening program.