Queen's University

Queen's experts to help millions of chronic pain suffers


By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Queen’s is collaborating with the University Health Network (UHN) on a province-wide initiative to provide better care for 2.7 million Ontarians living with chronic pain.

“Extensions for Community Health Care Outcomes, or ECHO, will remove barriers of access in the management of chronic pain and opioid stewardship, and will also become a powerful educational tool,” says Karen Smith, Associate Dean, Queen’s Office of Continuing Professional Development.

ECHO works by enabling primary care providers to work at the highest level of their scope, hence overcoming geographical barriers and specialist shortages. By de-monopolizing knowledge during weekly video discussions, the expert ECHO hub will connect with primary care providers to create a supportive community where best practices can be widely and rapidly disseminated. Queen’s was the first university in Canada to embrace the ECHO model after Dr. Ruth Dubin (Family Medicine) introduced it at the Office of Continuing Professional Development in early 2013.

The Ontario government is investing in new initiatives to ensure appropriate treatment, diagnostic testing and prescribing for patients with chronic pain. The province is partnering with UHN by connecting chronic pain specialists with primary care providers through the ECHO project.

Queen’s Office of Continuing Professional Development will manage the educational component of ECHO Ontario.

“ECHO will assist patients in a timely manner by connecting their primary care practitioners with a network of chronic pain specialists across the province,” says Dr. Smith. “ECHO will foster an interactive and inter-professional experience for the clinicians involved. The collaborative process leverages the best practices of adult learning and develops content that is timely, applicable and meaningful in the specific clinical context.”

After initially being developed to train remote primary care providers in New Mexico in the treatment of hepatitis C, the ECHO model has been expanded to 19 other chronic diseases and has been disseminated through many U.S. states, India, Brazil, Ireland and Uruguay. Interest is growing among Ontario health-care professionals to develop the model for the treatment of hepatitis C, rheumatology, mental health, addictions, HIV and many other complex chronic conditions.

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Last updated at 4:38 pm EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
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