Dental Tribune America

Project ECHO trains dentists through video conferencing platform

HOUSTON, U.S.: Staff at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Dentistry have recently presented the first online lecture on oral and maxillofacial lesions through Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes). The project connects expert specialists at academic medical centers with primary care clinicians in rural and underserved locations worldwide through what is named teleECHO technology. This enables specialist teams to share their knowledge and, through doing so, help improve treatment outcomes.

Project ECHO was launched in 2003 at the University of New Mexico and was aimed at addressing the growing demand for specialists able to treat hepatitis C patients in New Mexico. After the launch of the project, primary care clinicians were allowed to treat patients with hepatitis C in their respective communities without having to refer the patient to the nearest clinic.

Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay, a professor and director of the UTHealth’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program, believes that the information obtained from the recent lecture will be useful not only to dentists at the school but to all health care providers, especially in those areas that are experiencing a shortage of dental health professionals. “If they do oral cancer screenings, they may be able to make a diagnosis or identify signs of a serious oral or medical condition,” she said. “This, in turn, may help improve patients’ treatment outcomes.”

Future lectures delivered through Project ECHO may include topics such as opioid substance abuse in the geriatric population, provision of quality dental care for elderly patients with cognitive decline or mental health issues, and ways to address the source of pain to avoid masking it with opioids that may lead to addiction.

“Lectures on specialized dental and oral health care will help dentists and other health care providers in distant locations provide care not usually available in their communities,” said Dr. John Valenza, Dean of the UTHealth School of Dentistry. “Eventually, Project ECHO will export the expertise of our school around the world,” he added.

More information about the project can be found here.

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