Public Release: 

Project ECHO launched in D.C. and Maryland to combat diabetes

Through telementoring sessions, primary care physicians will learn how to handle complex diabetes cases in the Latino population

George Washington University

WASHINGTON (Nov. 26, 2018) -- In areas of Washington, D.C. and Maryland the prevalence of diabetes is as high as 15 percent in adults. This, coupled with long waitlists at endocrinologist offices, helped to fuel the idea that primary care physicians with advanced training in diabetes could effectively care for complex patients living with diabetes.

Project ECHO -- short for Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes -- is a telementoring project that targets increased workforce capacity to provide best practice specialty care and reduce health disparities. The heart of the ECHO model is its hub-and-spoke knowledge-sharing networks to conduct virtual clinics with community providers.

Through the Merck Foundation's Bridging the Gap: Reducing Disparities in Diabetes Care grant, the George Washington University (GW) in partnership with La Clínica del Pueblo, launched the first Project ECHO site in the D.C./Maryland region to improve the capacity of care teams to manage complex diabetes cases and establish team-based care review meetings focused on diabetes population health. This site launched in September 2018.

In 2017, La Clínica, a nonprofit serving as a dependable source of integrated health care and health education for more than 8,000 men, women, and children, was selected by the Merck Foundation through a national application process, to be a part of the Bridging the Gap initiative. This initiative aims to bring together the health care sector and others to support innovative approaches to diabetes treatment and management.

"Through Project ECHO, we are conducting a multidisciplinary intervention to target the Latino population to improve diabetes management by empowering primary care providers," said Nicole Ehrhardt, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences and one of the GW faculty involved with the grant.

Through 14 sessions over the course of six months, participants will learn through case presentations how they can approach diabetic patients with complex diagnoses. Ehrhardt said 10 GW physician assistant students also are involved. The students are attending sessions and at the end will share how comfortable they feel about their ability to manage diabetes when they start their own independent clinical practice in a year. The goal is to offer the diabetes ECHO training sessions to many more local primary care providers in D.C. and Maryland and also more GW students over the next four years.

"ECHO will strengthen our delivery of care and ultimately help our patients," said Ricardo Fernandez, MD, chief medical officer at La Clínica.

Through this initiative, La Clínica aims to strengthen its delivery of diabetes care through practice transformation strategies, and conduct multilevel and inter-sectoral interventions to reduce health disparities and improve population health in the Latino community. Project ECHO will improve health outcomes and increase access to quality diabetes care for Latinos with Type 2 diabetes in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

The D.C./Maryland program joins 14 other Project ECHO sites across the country focused on endocrinology and diabetes.

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Media: To interview Dr. Ehrhardt, please contact Ashley Rizzardo at amrizz713@gwu.edu or 202-994-8679. To interview Dr. Fernandez, please contact Rachel Ugarte at rugarte@lcdp.org or 202-448-2836.

About the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Founded in 1824, the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was the first medical school in the nation's capital and is the 11th oldest in the country. Working together in our nation's capital, with integrity and resolve, the GW SMHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of our local, national, and global communities. smhs.gwu.edu

About La Clínica del Pueblo

La Clínica del Pueblo was founded in 1983, as a drop in health center, by Salvadoran refugees displaced by civil war and institutionalized violence in their home country. Thirty-five years later, La Clínica operates five sites (two primary care sites, an HIV prevention and LGBTQ safe space, a community health action center and language access and a school-based mental health program) in Washington, DC and Prince George's County, MD to meet the needs of the diverse Latino community. Additionally, its targeted advocacy efforts strive to drive lasting change to ensure greater health equity and health access for the most marginalized groups in this region. http://www.lcdp.org

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