The Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) is an innovative model to train community-based providers to deliver state-of-the-art care for common, chronic diseases in vulnerable, under-served communities. ECHO is built on the premise that 1) technology can be used to leverage scarce resources; 2) case-based, iterative learning is the most effective way to improve clinical practice; and 3) knowledge transfer can improve the quality care in community health centers. Using advanced communication technologies ECHO bridges the gap between disease specialists at academic medical centers and providers who deliver comprehensive, culturally relevant, care at neighborhood-based health centers. The approach is case-based and iterative, similar to clinical rounds, the most prevalent model in clinical education.
Pioneered for rural communities by the University of New Mexico, the ECHO model provides a robust, efficient, and cost-effective solution to one of the most vexing issues in healthcare today: access to sub-specialty care for people living with complex chronic disease in medically under-served communities.
The University of Chicago launched the first implementation of the ECHO model in an urban setting. ECHO-Chicago links community health care providers in affiliated community health centers in Chicago and throughout Illinois with a specialist at the University of Chicago. Bi-weekly 60-minute video-conference sessions include a 20-minute lecture followed by presentation and discussion of challenging patient cases by community providers.