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Project ECHO—Extension for Community Health Outcomes—has helped physicians in rural New Mexico connect with specialists their patients would otherwise never be able to see since 2003. Now a pair of out-of-state senators want to see the program become the model for a national system telehealth system. The ECHO Act, cosponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Orrin Hatch of Utah, would require the Department of Health and Human Services to work with the Health Resources & Services Administration make analyzing the model a top priority, evaluating its impacts on provider capacity and workforce issues, as well as the evidence of its effects on quality of patient care. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would report on how increased adoption of such a model might boost efficiencies and potential cost savings. Given its multifaceted approach and reach in and around rural communities, the ability to connect with specialists without sending patients off to a hospital that may be hours away could be a boon for urgent care providers and their patients. ECHO has received high marks from patients, and has been shown to reduce trips to the emergency room.

Is ECHO Ready to Go National?