Helping Rural New Mexico’s Primary Care Providers Address Long-Term Coronavirus Impacts
Project ECHO at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is launching a new program to improve care for rural New Mexicans experiencing COVID and post-COVID complications.
The Post-COVID Primary Care ECHO will provide training, technical assistance and mentorship to rural primary care providers to help them identify, diagnose, treat and provide follow-up care for post-COVID patients. The program will be led by Michelle Harkins, MD, chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, and Alisha Parada, MD, chief of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics.
“As the pandemic continues to evolve, so do post-COVID complications,” Parada says. “This is the right time for ECHO to get evidence-based best practices in the hands of community health care providers so that they can better support patients throughout New Mexico who are recovering from COVID-19.”
The course curriculum was developed with input from a wide range of UNM Health Sciences specialists based on what they are seeing in their practices. Sessions will cover vaccine hesitancy, renal and pulmonary issues, physical therapy, dermatology and cardiovascular events.
Matthew Bouchonville, MD, Project ECHO’s New Mexico program director, says the Post-COVID Primary Care program represents the best of ECHO’s all-teach, all-learn model.
“Because COVID-19 is a fast-changing disease, it’s critical that local health care providers learn best practices from experts as new information emerges,” Bouchonville says. “And it’s just as critical for specialists to learn what local providers are seeing in their practices.”
Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks of becoming ill, some experience post-COVID conditions. These conditions (also be known as long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID or chronic COVID) include a range of new, returning or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even people who did not have symptoms in the days or weeks after they were infected can develop post-COVID conditions, which may present as different types and combinations of health problems for different lengths of time. According to a September 2021 CDC survey, approximately two-thirds of respondents who had received a positive test result reported long-term symptoms often associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Health care practitioners can register for the ECHO program online. The first session is January 25, 2022, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. MT.
About Project ECHO
Project ECHO is an Albuquerque-based nonprofit committed to empowering local community practitioners and professionals improve the well-being of people across New Mexico and around the world. In 2003, Project ECHO began offering a low-cost, scalable solution that increased the capacity of health workers in underserved communities across New Mexico, to provide best-practice care to their patients. Now, people and organizations from all over the world are leveraging the ECHO model to scale their own social initiatives in health, as well as other fields like childhood education and climate change.
The ECHO model uses videoconferencing technology and enabling software to connect providers in underserved communities with teams of specialists and experts at regional, national and global expert institutions for long-term telementoring, collaboration and case-based learning on urgent topics and conditions.
This project is supported by grant number 6U3IRH43513-01-01 from the Advancement of Telehealth, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.