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WV Project ECHO launches ECHO Memory Health

by Dalia ElSaid

In collaboration with West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI), West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI), and the Alzheimer’s Association, WV Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) will be launching a new ECHO Project around Memory Health this fall.

WV Project ECHO Memory Health aims to improve health outcomes while reducing geographic barriers and the cost of care through a team-based approach. The ECHO model will provide front-line clinicians with the knowledge and support they need to manage patients in their own communities. Utilizing a hub and spoke knowledge-sharing network, ECHO will offer an opportunity for primary care providers to present de-identified cases to an interdisciplinary panel of experts (including neurology, radiology, geriatrics, psychiatry and psychology, palliative care, nursing, and social work), and receive mentoring in the management of memory health conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

“We are excited to provide this resource and hope we can establish a support network for West Virginia primary care organizations around Memory Health,” said Jay Mason, assistant director of WV Project ECHO.

The Memory Health Clinic at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) will partner with WV Project ECHO in supplying the necessary hub experts for the project. The clinic, which is the first of its kind in the state, offers multidisciplinary clinical, research, and educational services to patients suffering from memory and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, as well as their caregivers.

“This is an excellent time to use the ECHO-based video training and consultation to improve the quality of life and outcomes for the many West Virginians who are struggling with a memory disorder like Alzheimer’s or caring for someone with this disease,” said Marc Haut, Ph.D., WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute vice chair and director of clinical research and education. “Here at the RNI, we are hopeful of the impact this new service can have on our state.”

A recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association estimates there are currently more than 5 million Americans 65+ living with Alzheimer’s — a number expected to nearly triple by 2050.

In West Virginia, more than 38,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and over 107,000 family and friends are providing care. The report also notes 9 in 10 primary care physicians expect to see an increase in people living with dementia during the next five years, and half say the medical profession is not prepared to meet this demand.

By accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support, the Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia. During the weekly sessions, the association will provide didactic presentations on a variety of memory health topics including assessment of symptoms, routine care planning, and advanced care planning.

"We are thrilled to support the WV Project ECHO team in their launch of this initiative,” said Morgan Daven, vice president of Health Systems at the Alzheimer's Association. “By providing guidance and mentorship to front-line clinicians, more West Virginians, including people living with the disease, their families and caregivers will receive increased access to not only timely detection and more accurate diagnoses of Alzheimer's and all other dementia, but also to quality care and support services.”

The monthly sessions will take place on the first Tuesday of each month from 4-5 p.m. via Zoom starting on October 6  and will be offered at no cost to those who participate. The sessions will be recorded and uploaded to the WV Project ECHO YouTube page for additional viewing. WV Project ECHO will also offer one hour of general continuing medical education credits for all who participate. For more information on participating in the ECHO project please contact Jay Mason at jdmason@hsc.wvu.edu or Mithra Mohtasham at mithra.mohtasham@hsc.wvu.edu.

The ECHO platform, which originated at the University of New Mexico, is utilized nationwide to address various health needs in individual states.

WVCTSI Background

WVCTSI is funded by an IDeA Clinical and Translational grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (U54GM104942) to support the mission of building clinical and translational research infrastructure and capacity to impact health disparities in West Virginia.