During a conference Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced the launch of a new program designed to use telehealth technology to help veterans living in rural areas obtain access to specialty care, Government Health IT reports (Spies, Government Health IT, 7/11).
The initiative -- called Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, or SCAN-ECHO -- is modeled after the Project ECHO program, which launched in 2004 at the University of New Mexico (Capachi, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/11).
Training for Doctors
The three-year, $15 million SCAN-ECHO program will allow primary care doctors to participate in weekly videoconference training sessions led by specialists.
The trainings aim to help the primary care doctors learn how to provide specialty medical care to veterans living in rural areas.
Seeking Feedback on Patient Care
Veterans would not directly receive telehealth services through the SCAN-ECHO program. A patient would need to provide consent before his or her primary care doctor could use the videoconferencing program to seek specialists' feedback on the patient's case (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 7/11).
Rajiv Jain -- VA's chief patient care services officer -- said, "If the patient agrees to a SCAN-ECHO consult, then the primary care provider will discuss the patient's case with the specialist and pass the information on to the patient at the next visit" (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/11).
The specialist also can recommend a treatment plan for the patient.
Current Participants, Future Plans
A list of the 11 VA medical facilities currently participating as SCAN-ECHO Centers is available from Healthcare IT News (Miliard, Healthcare IT News, 7/11).
According to Jain, the SCAN-ECHO program will help determine whether the telehealth-based physician trainings and consultations are cost-effective and should be expanded throughout the VA system (Modern Healthcare, 7/11).