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Dr. Sanjeev Arora, Director/Founder of Project ECHO, shares how the program pivoted to support healthcare providers treating COVID-19.


 

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many of the most carefully constructed plans for advancing social change into chaos. Like other organizations, we at Project ECHO have had to adapt in response.

ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) connects hundreds of thousands of learners worldwide to address more than 100 issues causing health and quality-of-life disparities. Our original 100&Change proposal focused on strengthening health systems in Africa and India by building and expanding communities of practice.

But when COVID-19 struck, we, like other organizations around the world, pivoted our resources to fight the pandemic. Our 100&Change strategy pivoted, too.

Thousands of providers seeking credible information and guidance turned to ECHO to learn about emerging best practices for treating COVID-19.

Thousands of providers seeking credible information and guidance turned to ECHO to learn about emerging best practices for treating COVID-19. In turn, they shared their experiences from the field on what worked best in everyday clinical practice.

More daunting challenges are ahead. First, how do we ensure that COVID-19 vaccines get to people who need them the most? Second, how do we ensure that all patients have access to effective new treatment therapies?

Ultimately, seven billion people will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Multiple vaccines will emerge. Confusion will occur about safety, side effects, and more.

Healthcare providers will need to know which vaccines are most effective and for which populations.

 

Community vaccination campaigns will be critical. A doctor gives a life saving-shot in the arm to a patient in his village.

 

Initially, vaccine supplies will be limited. Providers will face the difficulty of prioritizing patients based on health risks.

In addition, most countries lack the workforce and systems to administer vaccines on such a large scale. Massive training and education will be needed.

The mere availability of vaccines will not guarantee that people will agree to get them. Many will delay or reject vaccination for themselves and their families. We will need to build trust with communities by providing them access to vaccines, credible information, and support.

Meanwhile, new, more effective coronavirus therapies are emerging. All healthcare providers, especially in low- and middle-income countries, must have access to these therapies and know how to use them effectively.

We are fortunate. ECHO’s inherent approach is ideal to respond to COVID-19.

More important than technology or speed, the model’s central concept is to broadly share expertise and upload learning and priorities from communities.

ECHO programs always have been virtual. Zoom has been a core element of our model since 2013. Earlier this year, when we had to move our in-person partner training operations—most of which were in the U.S., India, and Africa—online, it was familiar territory.

We can move quickly, too. In the past eight months, Project ECHO has trained more than 740,000 providers in COVID-19 response, including more than 400,000 health workers participating in ECHO India.

More important than technology or speed, the model’s central concept is to broadly share expertise and upload learning and priorities from communities. We will continue to rebalance as the landscape shifts.

COVID-19 is the challenge of our time. Project ECHO’s flexibility, global reach, and the dedication of our ECHO community place us in a strong position to support the international pandemic response. We welcome this challenge.

After all, sharing knowledge to save and improve lives is what we are all about.

 

Indian physician, Dr. Sree, learned new practices through participation in an teleECHO network to support her community.

 


View Project ECHO profile ›


Source of original article:John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (www.macfound.org).
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