Project ECHO COVID-19: Vulnerable Populations and Telehealth Early in the Pandemic

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Introduction/Objectives: Project ECHO COVID-19 was launched nationwide on March 4, 2020 to disseminate guidance about COVID-19 in a timely and scalable manner to meet the urgent needs of primary care settings, the first line of defense in a pandemic. Methods: Data from post-session surveys were analyzed to assess participant satisfaction, knowledge gaps, change in knowledge, and anticipated changes in practice as a result of Project ECHO COVID-19. A content analysis was conducted of the 243 questions and concerns posted by over 2000 participants in the Question and Answer function of Zoom during the first 8 sessions (March 4-April 29, 2020). Results: Of 5243 registrants, 49% attended at least one session. Respondents agreed or strongly agreed that didactic sessions (97%) and case presentations (96%) met their learning needs; 93% reported gaining new knowledge, and 88% would implement that knowledge. Only 32% and 53% of respondents anticipated changing workflows and adapting to telehealth, respectively, despite the need for both as the pandemic continued. The content analysis identified 3 categories: clinical operations (eg, testing, triage, telehealth, billing); patient care (diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, management of high-risk vulnerable populations); and epidemiology (viral spread, implications for public health). Conclusions: Care of vulnerable populations and clinical operations should be addressed when planning education and clinical interventions for public health crises. Adapting the Project ECHO model to be more scalable was an effective means of creating a community of practice among health professionals when evidence-based guidance was not available to manage the implications of a pandemic.