Purpose/Rationale: Lack of access to a hematology specialist is a barrier to care for veterans in rural and underserved areas. In light of the increasingly short supply of sub-specialists, there is a need to provide hematology education and outreach to primary care providers within the VA system.
Background: The ECHO program (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a well-established and successful platform that audibly and visually links an area specialist to primary care providers and interdisciplinary team members, allowing for two-way specialty consultation combined with continuing education. Overall, our service network (VISN 20) has provided specialty education to more than 10 specialties and 171 clinical sites (26% rural or highly rural) through the VA-ECHO program. In fiscal year 2016, VISN 20 estimated that over 280,000 potential patient travel miles saved as a result of VA-ECHO.
Methods/Approach: As we could not identify an existing Hematology VA-ECHO program within VISN 20, nor to our knowledge nationally, we sought to develop and implement a Hematology VA-ECHO program based at the Puget Sound VA (Seattle, WA).
Results: We delivered an introductory 3-part VA-ECHO series to assess demand and solicit feedback about Hematology VA-ECHO. Session topics were iron deficiency anemia, polycythemia, and deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism. We had participation from 17 sites in 9 states; 10 sites within VISN 20. Attendees included pharmacists, MDs, APRNs and RNs. We averaged 20 participants per session and welcomed 43 unique participants over 3 sessions. The vast majority (94%) of respondents (n=34) agreed or strongly agreed that the content in the sessions were relevant to their practice and 80% anticipated changing their practice as a result of session participation
Conclusion/Implications: A successful Hematology VA-ECHO program stands to de-monopolize specialty knowledge and help primary providers evaluate and manage common hematologic abnormalities, especially in underserved areas. We aim to expand Hematology VA-ECHO to include 8-9 sessions over the next calendar year. Uptake of Hematology VA-ECHO at additional VA sites in different geographical areas would help further increase hematology access for primary providers.