Dialogue with Project ECHO’s Erika Harding

Published on February 22, 2018

Updated on March 13, 2018

Project ECHO’s Erika Harding will present the opening keynote address at the 2018 Dialogue for Action® on Cancer Screening and Prevention.

Harding serves as the ECHO Institute’s Chief Replication Officer at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque. She has been with ECHO for nearly ten years and has managed more than $37 million in replication-related grant funding. Harding has also overseen the growth of the replication team and process, from fewer than 10 ECHO “hub” partners to 175 hubs across 25 countries.

Briefly tell us about Project ECHO and how it has helped to treat hepatitis C infection, thus reducing the risk of liver cancer.

Recognizing the need to bring specialized care to medically underserved communities in New Mexico, liver specialist Dr. Sanjeev Arora created Project ECHO to train primary care providers to better treat hepatitis C. Project ECHO uses interactive videoconferencing and ongoing telementoring to bring the expertise of a multidisciplinary “hub” team of specialists to a network of community providers.

We have seen ECHO work in hepatitis C across New Mexico, and now in 21 other ECHO hubs. The cure rates in the communities are equal to or better than those achieved at the hubs themselves, thereby expanding the capacity to treat and access to care.

Why do you think this model has translated so well to other diseases and locations? What challenges have you faced?

This model has now been replicated at 175 hub sites across 25 countries, with many more soon to launch. It has translated easily outside of hepatitis C (and even outside of medicine) because the model is so easy and so powerful. The close relationships built between experts and community providers lead to an environment of trust and respect that changes the way providers think and practice medicine. This is very different from a webinar, in that it offers an opportunity to build real relationships with others on the network, promotes mutual trust and respect and is longitudinal in nature.

Besides making specialized care accessible, how does Project ECHO benefit patients and providers?

By bringing the right knowledge—relevant, customized, evidence-based and locally appropriate best practices and advice—to the communities, ECHO enables the RIGHT CARE to the RIGHT PLACE at the RIGHT TIME. 

Of course, patients benefit tremendously by getting access to specialized care and expertise in their communities and by getting streamlined access to experts at the hub quickly when necessary. Community providers gain expertise and receive professional development and various kinds of credits. ECHO provides them with a network of peers to discuss complex patient cases and learn from each other’s successes and challenges. This reduced isolation, access to specialists and improved joy of work improves retention and builds value for the clinics and the communities where they work and the health system overall.

What do you think is Project ECHO’s biggest impact on medicine? 

We have seen that ECHO meaningfully reduces disparities. We believe that the ECHO model can serve as a more efficient and effective means of sharing and disseminating best practices in cancer prevention and treatment around the world, reaching what is called “the last mile” in health care. A new, effective mechanism is needed to disseminate all of the tremendous knowledge and scientific discoveries so that disparities are not worsened as science continues to advance. We have already seen the value of the ECHO model in cancer prevention, where many of our partners are improving smoking cessation, early cancer screening, sun safety and skin cancer detection and hepatitis C and hepatitis B treatment.

You’re delivering the opening keynote address at the 2018 Dialogue for Action® conference. What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation?

The most important thing we can do is to amplify the incredible work all your amazing participants do in the field of cancer screening and prevention. Each year there are hundreds of new innovations in ways to prevent and treat cancer. The problem is—there isn’t an equal focus on disseminating and implementing these innovations, causing disparities to grow between those who have access to the knowledge and best practices and those who don’t.

You and your “Cancer Team” are also participating in one of our Concurrent Conversations. What should attendees expect from this conversation?

We hope that those who attend this conversation understand the ECHO model and learn how to apply ECHO to their own organizations, states and countries to improve the continuum of cancer care. We also hope that participants see the applicability of the ECHO model to deliver the right knowledge in the right place and implement it to train others in best practices for cancer prevention, screening, treatment, survivorship and palliation.

Don’t miss Erika Harding’s opening keynote at the 
2018 Dialogue for Action®!
Register today and save $50 on your registration fee.

Dialogue for Action® on Cancer Screening and Prevention
April 11-13, 2018
Hilton McLean Tysons Corner
McLean, Va.

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