Providers find telehealth-based mentorship program valuable

Participants in a telemedicine-based specialty mentorship program reported finding its value increased over time, according to research published at Telemedicine and e-Health.

The research focused on the Specialty Care Access Network–Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (SCAN-ECHO) project, which the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched in 2012 to provide long-distance specialty training and support to rural primary care providers.

In the VA's Northwest region, SCAN-ECHO conferences take place weekly in four subspecialties: hepatology, nephrology, pulmonary and infectious diseases. This study looked at how valuable providers consider these conferences, which can require a significant time commitment.

The study determined that the optimum duration of SCAN-ECHO participation needed to maximize perceived specialty care access was 1.1 years (416.5 days).

Participants who took pat in the program for a year or more were significantly more likely to strongly agree that it improved patients' access to specialty care, improved quality of care and improved care coordination between PCPs and specialists. However, PCPs were not more likely to report improvement in overall job satisfaction.

Longer-term participants were more likely than shorter-term participants to strongly agree that SCAN-ECHO increased their knowledge and competencies and led to expanded scope of practice.

Project ECHO, a rural telemedicine initiative launched by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in 2003, originally focused on treating hepatitis C. It recently announced it will be focusing on superuser patients, many of whom have serious mental health or addiction problems in addition to physical health issues.

The GE Foundation has committed $14 million to increase the number of federally qualified health centers within the project.

To learn more:
- read the abstract