Consultants and GPs in Ireland are to participate in three pilot care delivery projects based on a US telemedicine initiative called Project ECHO. It is estimated that replication of the project in Ireland could deliver an estimated €20 million in healthcare savings.
The way ECHO works is by providing primary care providers such as GPs with training in medical conditions that would otherwise be treatable only by specialists. This is done through a model of ‘guided practice’ and mentoring using video-conferencing technology.
Initially, the pilot will focus on rheumatology conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is understood that 20 GPs nationwide will be trained under the pilot. The aim is to reduce consultant waiting times and allow patients to be diverted from hospital services to be managed in the community. Heads up thanks to fellow TTA and TANN England Contributing Editor, Chrys Meewella for this!
Note: I’ve referred to the ECHO project as ‘telemedicine’ rather than as ‘telehealth’ – which it is referred to as throughout the IMT article. For further information regarding the debate around telecare, telemedicine and telehealth, see TTA’s What is Telecare? section.