Technology Connects Nevada Specialists With Rural Doctors

Nov 18, 2015

Project ECHO clinics bring physicians and social workers in rural areas together with specialists on a regular basis to learn about advancements in their fields and ask for advice on specific cases.
Credit Courtesy Project ECHO

Video technology makes it possible for an urban specialist to see rural patients without anyone having to drive, but it doesn't solve a key underlying issue: there aren’t enough specialists in Nevada. 

In 2010, a liver specialist in New Mexico posed this question: What if we used teleconferencing to train primary physicians in rural counties?

The result was Project ECHO, which created a model for other rural health programs in the country, including Nevada in 2012. The local Project ECHO program is run out of the University of Nevada, Reno. According to director Dr. Evan Klass, the program is helping to address doctor shortages.

"In doing our needs assessment around the state we found that there was nothing but need."

At virtual clinics for various disciplines, doctors can learn about new developments in their fields, and get advice on specific patients. They can also call specialists any time they need a consult.

"I’ve waited my whole career for this. It fundamentally changes the way you practice. You just get to share what you know with others, without having to worry about some fee for service.”

Next up? An expansion into Nevada's urban health centers, which Klass says tend to need just as much help as their rural counterparts these days.