Indiana University researchers and clinicians are helping the state’s health care workforce respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing free virtual training focused on issues related to the novel coronavirus.
The educational videoconferencing resource, called an ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), is made available through the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI.
Project ECHO is a case-based learning system and guided practice model that increases medical education and workforce capacity to provide best-practice specialty care and reduce health disparities.
As part of the program, health care providers from multiple locations can connect with specialists through videoconferencing at regularly scheduled times. Registered participants can also access recordings of the live sessions.
“There’s nothing like having a direct line to an expert,” said Andrea Janota, interim director of the ECHO Center at the Fairbanks School of Public Health. “They can provide the most up-to-date information and answer questions in real time.”
The first training session of the new Indiana COVID-19 Response ECHO, which began April 1, was attended by more than 300 health care workers from 61 counties — 52 of those in Indiana — across nine states.
Janota said the Indiana COVID-19 Response ECHO is focused on issues and processes relevant to Indiana, but many of the topics, such as infection prevention, can be applied universally.
The COVID-19 ECHO trainings will take place every Wednesday morning until May 6, when, Janota said, her team will assess whether further instruction is needed.
Upcoming trainings will include specialists in triaging patients, pharmacology, rural health and maximizing personal protective equipment (PPE), but the team is keeping the curriculum flexible so they can respond to the questions they get from health care workers.
Janota said some of the most-asked questions in the first COVID-19 ECHO training, which featured experts from the Indiana State Department of Health, centered on infection control, telemedicine and how health care providers can protect their loved ones by not bringing the virus home to them.
Jon Agley, deputy director of research at Prevention Insights, an addiction research center based at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington that is working to help the ECHO team collect and assess data they can use to be responsive to participants’ needs, said ECHO’s teaching model has never been more relevant.
“One of the ECHO slogans, ‘moving knowledge, not people,’ has never made more sense than in this pandemic,” Agley said. “It’s great that IU had already built capacity and infrastructure for ECHO for other public health issues like opioids, cancer and HIV.”
Janota said that since the ramping up of physical distancing (also known as social distancing) and stay-at-home orders, the ECHO program, which has been led by outgoing Fairbanks School of Public Health Associate Dean Joan Duwve, has experienced an increase in participation across all its seven other focus areas.
“Even in this time of telecommuting, ECHO is open for business, and we’re not slowing down,” Janota said.