LANDOVER, Md. — Epilepsy Foundation applauds the recent decision by the American Medical Association (AMA) to encourage greater use of telemedicine programs, such as Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), to improve healthcare provider education and access to care for people in rural and underserved communities. The AMA’s decision comes on the heels of the Epilepsy Foundation successfully completing two pilot programs, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, using the Project ECHO model to address gaps in education and care for people with epilepsy and their families.
There are more than 3.4 million people living with epilepsy in the U.S. Many live in rural and underserved communities and don’t have access to specialty care to manage this brain disorder. In addition, people with epilepsy have complex needs that are not easy to treat. Many primary care providers are not able to address the challenges of difficult-to-control seizures or comorbid conditions and require access to epilepsy specialists.
“The Foundation strives to improve care for people with epilepsy wherever they are. We need to close the gap between the person with epilepsy and the quality of care that helps them strive for seizure freedom and the best quality of life possible,” said Steven Owens, MD, MPH, MA, vice president of Programs & Services at the Epilepsy Foundation. “We found there was a great need to better equip healthcare providers who care for people with epilepsy. Using Project ECHO, our goal is to prepare providers to give the right care at the right time and know when to refer people to specialty epilepsy care. Our hope is that ECHO will decrease health disparities for people with epilepsy in rural communities.”
Last year, the Foundation awarded a grant to the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute for a 10-month ECHO Epilepsy/Neurology, a telementoring program designed to link primary care providers (including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, and other professionals) in Ohio and surrounding states with neurologists and epilepsy specialists.
“ECHO has allowed us to connect with more than 100 primary care providers and deliver the latest information on epilepsy diagnosis and treatment to their office or home,” said Michael Privitera, M.D., professor and director of the Epilepsy Center at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute. “Each ECHO session provides a short instructional segment followed by a group discussion about complex real-life cases presented by participant providers, which are then analyzed by an expert panel in order to determine the best recommended approach for each case.”
In addition, the Foundation also recently collaborated with the American Academy of Pediatrics to run a Project ECHO program designed to link school nurses with a multidisciplinary team of epilepsy and school nursing experts. This program used the ECHO model to reach school nurses nationwide to help in managing students with seizures in school settings. The School Nurse ECHO is the first time this model has been used for school nurses.
Both of the Foundation’s ECHO programs allow provider participants to share expert knowledge and resources using a web-based platform that connects them with diverse faculty free of charge. A critical component of this model emphasizes bidirectional learning with didactic and case-based discussions to allow sharing from faculty and provider participants.
In the fall of 2019, the Epilepsy Foundation plans to expand the ECHO Epilepsy/Neurology and school nurse programs, as well as add new sessions, publish results in a medical journal, and present findings at an upcoming medical meeting for both programs.
According to the World Health Organization, epilepsy is the most common serious brain disorder worldwide with no age, racial, social class, national or geographic boundaries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3.4 million people in the United States are affected by epilepsy. It is the underlying tendency of the brain to produce seizures which are sudden abnormal bursts of electrical energy that disrupt brain functions.
About the Epilepsy Foundation
The Epilepsy Foundation is leading the fight to END EPILEPSY®. With a network of nearly 50 partners throughout the United States, the Foundation connects people to treatment, support and resources; leads advocacy efforts; funds innovative research and the training of specialists; and educates the public about epilepsy and seizure first aid. For more than five decades, the Epilepsy Foundation has shone a light on epilepsy to promote awareness and understanding, and to advocate for laws that matter to people with epilepsy, while also funding $65 million for epilepsy research and supporting 3,076 epilepsy investigators and specialists in their early careers. Over the past 17 years, in partnership with the CDC, the Epilepsy Foundation has helped to improve access to care for people with epilepsy, expanded its digital reach and online resources in homes across the country, and trained more than 500,000 school and community personnel in how to recognize seizures and administer seizure first aid. The Foundation has also assisted more than 108,000 people through its 24/7 Helpline in the past five years, and continues to focus on innovation, new therapies, community services, advocacy and education as key priorities. To learn more visit epilepsy.com or call 1.800.332.1000. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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