Texas A&M Health Science Center achieves Project ECHO superhub status

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) – The Texas A&M Health Science Center became a Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) superhub this month.

Project ECHO brings together healthcare workers and subject specialists to share knowledge and experiences that contribute to better outcomes for patients. These training sessions are done both virtually and in-person.

The A&M Rural and Community Health Institute, known as ARCHI, has used ECHO to help rural hospitals, patient safety, opioid and pain management, forensic nursing, and limiting the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

”As a superhub, we can facilitate that because now we have the authority to train other hubs,” ARCHI Rural Access Programs Director Bree Watzak said. “So not only can we keep doing the training, but we can train others to do the training. It’s like a force multiplier. We can train more people to get more information out into the rural areas.”

Watzak says The ECHO model was first created by a University of New Mexico doctor in an effort to better equip more doctors in the state to treat hepatitis C, where there was an overwhelming shortage of physicians who could do so there. What UNM doctors were doing there in medicine for that particular disease, Watzak says Texas A&M began doing for improving care and resources in rural hospitals. Other ECHOs do different models and specialty areas, she says.

There are only 25 Project ECHO superhubs worldwide, and Texas A&M is now one of seven authorized universities. ARCHI has already helped hospitals and health organizations in places as far away as the state of Maine and the Mariana Islands.

“They were networking and then connecting outside of our Zoom and sharing best practices,” Watzak said. “Last year, they did that on how to set up drive-thru flu clinics, how to set up drive-thru COVID vaccine or testing clinics. They were sharing ideas and then following up. These are hospitals in completely different states that would not have connected and had that conversation if we hadn’t created the safe space for them to talk and get together.”

Watzak says she’s excited not just about the exposure superhub status will bring to Texas A&M, but also the expertise from which people living in the Brazos Valley will get to directly benefit. She also hopes it will bring new connections, work, outreach, research opportunities and grants to the school.

“I think it will bring some name recognition to Texas A&M. It will also bring people. The point of this superhub is to train others,” Watzak said. “We can have the training in-person or virtually. Either way, we will be exposing people from around the world to all the amazing resources that Texas A&M has.”

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