December 2018

Project ECHO: Using experts to improve community health outcome

Created by:

Rachel Kachali (Communications Officer, EGPAF-Malawi)

Country:

Malawi

Topics:

Community Mobilization; Health Systems Strengthening

Project ECHO is a lifelong learning and guided practice model that revolutionizes medical education and exponentially increases workforce capacity to provide best-practice specialty care and reduce health disparities. Conceptualized by the University of New Mexico, there are currently 249 ECHO platforms across 32 countries.

With funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) / U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), in collaboration with Lighthouse Trust, launched the first ECHO in Malawi on November 22, 2018. THE ECHO platform will focus on an IRB- approved curriculum that Lighthouse developed for advanced HIV care and treatment.

Primary care doctors, nurses, and other clinicians learn to provide excellent specialty care to patients in their own communities without having to travel far distances to receive expert training.

The heart of the ECHO model is its hub-and-spoke, knowledge-sharing networks; expert teams made up of clinicians (doctors and clinical officers) use multi-point video conferencing to conduct virtual clinics with community providers. In this way, primary care doctors, nurses, and other clinicians learn to provide excellent specialty care to patients in their own communities without having to travel far distances to receive expert training. In Malawi, Lighthouse Clinic serves as the hub, while the spokes include Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Queens) in Blantyre, Rainbow Clinic in Mzuzu, Thyolo Hospital, and Martin Preuss Clinic in Lilongwe.

Health Providers at the Hub listening from the Spokes during ECHO session
Multi-point video conferencing is used to conduct virtual clinics with community providers

EGPAF’s Capacity Building and Human Resources for Health Advisor, Malocho Phoso, is the Project Manager who oversees the ECHO sessions.

“We want to improve community health outcomes by equipping the providers with knowledge of management of ART cases. The Malawi project ECHO has 25 sessions of approved curriculum delivered in weekly sessions,” she explained.

The Hub and the Spokes during ECHO session

During the ECHO launch session, Lighthouse Executive Director, Professor Sam Phiri, made the introductory remarks and led the team through the first session on viral load monitoring amongst HIV patients.

“EGPAF has been instrumental in rolling out ECHO sessions across Africa and we are delighted to launch the first ECHO in Malawi. Through an evaluation of this pilot project we look forward to demonstrating to the Ministry of Health the acceptability and feasibility of this model to improve continuous learning and improve patient health care in Malawi”, said Veena Sampathkumar, EGPAF Malawi’s Country Director.