Throughout Asia, many patients have difficulty accessing the health services they need, particularly for chronic or complex conditions. This situation is due to many factors, including an insufficient number of skilled or adequately trained health care professionals.
According to the World Health Organization, countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia have significantly fewer doctors, nurses and midwives per capita than developed nations. These regions also have limited access to specialty services, making it challenging for many communities and residents to obtain specialty care for complex or chronic conditions, such as mental health illnesses, tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis C, cancer and diabetes.
In rural areas of these regions, much of the health care workforce is composed of primary care providers, community health workers (CHWs) and other grassroots health networks that focus mainly on basic primary care. These frontline health workers often have insufficient knowledge and skills to provide their patients with the right care at the right place and the right time. Without the necessary training and ongoing support that a wide range of health workers need to treat patients with complex diseases, providing patients with best-practice care is difficult or impossible.
PARTNERSHIP WITH PROJECT ECHO®
To help build health care capacity and expand access to specialty care for complex or chronic conditions among underserved populations in Asia, our company’s Foundation established a new partnership with Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) through a $7 million commitment over five years (2017–2021) to expand the replication of Project ECHO in India and Vietnam. The ECHO Model™ provides the necessary knowledge and tools to health care providers in their own communities so they can become a critical frontline health care workforce while maintaining responsibility for managing their complex patients. Primary care providers and CHWs trained through the ECHO model can together provide care that is safe and effective, thereby increasing access to high-quality health care in these remote communities.
Project ECHO is a tele-mentoring model that links multidisciplinary medical specialist teams at an academic hub with multiple primary care providers (PCPs) through virtual teleECHO™ programs around the world. These programs allow experts to mentor and share their expertise via case-based learning across a virtual network, training PCPs to treat patients with complex conditions in their own communities.
Given the substantial need to improve the delivery of health care throughout India and Vietnam, Project ECHO has four goals over the next five years:
- Further develop ECHO superhubs (training sites) in India to provide technical assistance for ECHO projects throughout Southeast and South Asia
- Develop and expand ECHO hubs across India and Vietnam in targeted disease areas: hepatitis C, tuberculosis, HIV, diabetes, mental health illnesses, and other noncommunicable diseases
- Establish ECHO hubs in India and Vietnam for developing and implementing training programs for CHWs to further improve the quality and availability of treatment and care
- Document the effectiveness of the ECHO model in improving access to specialty care for patients in rural and underserved areas in India and Vietnam
Project ECHO plans to evaluate the impact and outcomes of the ECHO model to determine its success in improving access to best-practice specialty care for patients—particularly those with complex or chronic conditions—in rural and underserved areas in India and Vietnam. This evaluation will aid in the continued improvement of the replication of the ECHO model in India and Vietnam and around the world.