Lack of access to specialty care is a major barrier for patients, as healthcare providers within isolated and rural communities often do not have the resources and education to support complex medical conditions for rural patients with opioid dependencies.
Texas A&M University Health Science Center https://wwwtamhsc.edu has launched the first Texas-based opioid-centered Project ECHO https://echo.unm.edu hub referred to as “Enhancing Mental Health Practice, Organization and Workforce through Education and Readiness” (EMPOWER).
EMPOWER will expand the role of specialty and team-based care to address the opioid epidemic which will require bridging the gap for rural and underserved communities by using technology to reach rural healthcare providers.
“This model helps patients’ primary care provider remain the partner in their healthcare. EMPOWER helps us expand the available healthcare team, allowing the patient to benefit from the expertise and experience of everyone in the ECHO clinic”, said Regina Bentley Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health Services at Texas A&M and Clinical Associate Professor at the College of Nursing.
The ECHO program will begin educating rural healthcare providers on the program as well as enhance the understanding of the opioid epidemic. Examples include educating rural healthcare providers on how to avoid over prescribing opioids as well as helping them receive X-waivers to prescribe drugs to help manage and treat opioid dependencies.