ECHO Helps N.Y’s Rural Elderly

Demand for mental healthcare services will continue to grow, according to the New York State Office of Mental Health. The number of adults age 65 or older will almost double from $2.5 million as reported in 2016 and grow to $4 million by 2030. The number of patients with mental illness is expected to rise from 495,000 to 772,000 by that time.

Project ECHO is a telehealth distance-learning model to help rural clinicians acquire new expertise and to provide evidence-based healthcare to underserved patients by consulting with experts in major cities. Project ECHO GEMH focuses on elderly patients with dementia or mental disorders living in remote or medically underserved areas of New York

Initially to get started, primary care clinicians from across New York attended video conferencing sessions based on AHRQ’s funded Project ECHO ECHO was created by AHRQ grantee Sanjeev Arora, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of New Mexico where it was used to improve care for rural patients with hepatitis C.

The video sessions enabled the primary care clinicians to learn how to use telehealth to provide mental health treatments to help N.Y’s elderly patients in rural areas. The ECHO model connected rural clinicians to the University of Rochester Medical Center specialists via virtual clinics. URMC’s geriatrics specialist teams answered questions, offered guidance, and provided treatment recommendations.

This initiative involving Project ECHO has reduced Emergency Department (ED) visits by 20 percent and cut costs by 24 percent since 2014 according to Michael J. Hasselberg PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical Nursing at URMC plus he directs the Project ECHO Geriatric Mental Health (GEMH) model.

As of November 2016, more than 500 community-based clinicians across the State have received clinical guidance. Also, hospital’s geriatric care consultations have seen reductions in cost- associated with ED use claims data.


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