PCC Executive Team Go International - Project ECHO

Primary Care Connect’s (PCC) Chief Executive Officer, Rebecca Lorains, accompanied by Executive Manager Research and Evaluation, Megan Lorains, Executive Manager Health Services, Hannah Dolling and Pharmacotherapy Network Coordinator, Tim Griffith are currently in Albuquerque, New Mexico undertaking the Immersion Training for Project ECHO!

What is Project ECHO and why?

Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a movement to demonopolize knowledge and amplify the capacity to provide best practice care for underserved people all over the world.

Here in Victoria, Australia Project ECHO commenced at PCC in January 2018 with a service agreement with St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne to provide addiction specialist and central project administration services, as well as MOUs with Ballarat Community Health and Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) for strategic, operational and financial support via the Pharmacotherapy Area Based Networks (PABNs).  This enables Project ECHO to be supported and provided throughout the whole of regional Victoria.

In the Hume area there are approximately 400 active pharmacotherapy patients and are serviced by 31 active accredited prescribers (able to prescribe both methadone and buprenorphine).  The Hume area follows the national trend of methadone being the most-prescribed treatment for opioid dependence (approximately two-thirds) with the remainder being buprenorphine, usually in the form of Suboxone.  While the service figures appear to compare favourable with other similar regional areas in Victoria and the average – they can be skewed by areas that are particularly well or particularly poorly serviced.  Over the the last four years active prescriber numbers have increased significantly and pharmacy numbers moderately (2017, Griffith.T; Project ECHO Report).

In Greater Shepparton alone, there exists a relatively high number of patients (approximately 30% of all active patients in the Hume), a high unmet demand and very poor existing capacity in both pharmacies and GP practices.  This has been the case for several decades, and has persisted despite the ongoing efforts of the Hume Area Pharmacotherapy Network.  Until recently, in Shepparton, the most populous centre, only one pharmacy out of 10 was taking part in the program and serviced 40% of all patients in Greater Shepparton area, which changed late 2016 which saw a reduction of service being offered to just 5%.

Currently with Project ECHO:

Since June 2018, Project ECHO at PCC has provided weekly teleECHO sessions and currently have a total of 163 subscribers.  A total of 22 – 1 hour teleECHO sessions has been broadcast to over 100 individuals with over 40 case presentations discussed. Of those in attendance at the teleECHO sessions, more than half have attended more than one session.

With PCC’s Executive Team and Pharmacotherapy Network Coordinator receiving further training in Project ECHO will provide the region with greater knowledge and new ideas on how to better support those in our community who need it most in this space as well as provide our professionals with the understanding they require to best support the community in partnership with Project ECHO.

CEO, Rebecca Lorains states “It has been a busy first couple of days full of learning and we are super excited about what we have taken in thus far in the Immersion Training! We look forward to sharing this knowledge with everyone on our return!”