Project ECHO Launches Study on Improving Outcomes for Diabetic Patients with Chronic Conditions

Funds awarded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute 


ALBUQUERQUE, NM – A research team at Project ECHO, part of The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, has been approved for a $10.8 million funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study how to help primary care physicians in New Mexico upskill in their treatment of complex diabetes.

In New Mexico, about 12.3% of the adult population has been diagnosed with diabetes; an additional 36.1% of the adult population has “prediabetes,” or blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association.

In a rural state with a strained health care system, care for these patients often falls to their primary care provider. Adding to the complexity of care, patients with diabetes have an increased risk of high cholesterol, obesity and depression. Furthermore, these patients face higher risks of losing physical or mental function, experiencing other chronic conditions and death.

“We have been using the ECHO Model to improve diabetes care in New Mexico for a decade. This new funding allows us to examine the impact ECHO has on patient outcomes in a large randomized controlled trial,” says Dr. Sanjeev Arora, founder and director of Project ECHO, and co-principal investigator of the PCORI-funded study with Yiliang Zhu, Ph.D.

“There are not enough specialists available to provide timely care to everyone that needs it. We are relying on our primary care providers to fill in the gap, which can be overwhelming. Through telementorship, the ECHO Model enables health care providers to get the specific, actionable knowledge that they need to treat the patients that they are seeing the very next day,” says Raj Shah, Ph.D., project co-lead.

This PCORI-funded research studies a specific intervention: can health care providers who attend ECHO sessions, and learn specialized care for patients with diabetes and multiple chronic conditions, successfully lower blood sugar levels in patients treated at primary care clinics in New Mexico?

“There is a great shortage of endocrinologists in rural New Mexico. By receiving best-practice care right in their hometowns, these patients will be able to improve their health, without the stress and expense of traveling; or the wait times to see a specialist,” says Dr. Matt Bouchonville, endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the UNM Health Sciences Center.

Project ECHO will partner with Presbyterian Medical Services, the state’s largest network of primary care clinics. Providers and care teams from 10 clinics will be selected at random to participate in the ECHO program for 18 months; while providers at 10 other clinics will continue with care as usual. A research team will collect data from both groups—about 7,000 patients—and hopes to see improvements in blood sugar levels as well as co-occurring chronic conditions including high cholesterol, obesity and depression.

The study, ECHO for Diabetes and Multiple Chronic Conditions, was selected through a PCORI Funding Announcement focused on research comparing different approaches to incorporating access to and use of telehealth in primary care to improve outcomes among individuals with multiple chronic conditions, particularly among vulnerable populations.

“This study was selected for PCORI funding for its potential to answer the need for real-world evidence about how best to incorporate telehealth into the primary care of people with multiple chronic conditions and how this may differ among populations at risk for health disparities,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, M.D., MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with Project ECHO to share the results.”

About Project ECHO
Founded in 2003, Project ECHO is a global, not-for-profit organization, headquartered at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. ECHO empowers practitioners in rural and underserved areas to reduce disparities and improve the well-being of people in the communities where they live. ECHO’s low-cost virtual mentoring model addresses some of the world’s greatest challenges in clinical medicine and public health, with a mission to touch 1 billion lives by 2025.

The ECHO Endocrinology Program has been serving New Mexicans since 2014. Local health care providers are invited to join at no cost through

About Presbyterian Medical Services

Presbyterian Medical Services (PMS) is a non-profit health care provider that has been serving the state of New Mexico since its inception in 1969. With a history that dates to 1908, PMS has grown into a comprehensive health care system that offers a wide range of services to meet the diverse needs of New Mexicans. Their services encompass primary care, dental, behavioral health, early childhood education, supportive living, senior programs, among other services operating approximately 100 programs across the state. PMS is dedicated to working collaboratively with community groups, school districts, local providers, hospitals, and governments to develop programs that cater to the needs of the communities they serve, with a particular focus on individuals living at or below the federal poverty level. With over 100 locations across New Mexico, we strive to make accessing quality health care, childhood education and social services possible for everyone. To learn more about PMS and its programs and services, please visit

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