OK Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak is calling attention to a new effort to combat health issues in rural Oklahoma. He attended the Rural Health Leadership Summit hosted by the OSU Center for Health Sciences (OSU-CHS) on Tuesday. At the event, OSU-CHS officials introduced Project ECHO, an effort to use technology to address addiction, mental health, women’s health, HIV/AIDS and obesity in rural Oklahoma.
“Oklahomans in every corner of the state deserve high-quality health care,” said Doak. “Location shouldn’t impact a patient’s level of treatment.
“The ECHO Project will address several health challenges in rural Oklahoma including a shortage of doctors, higher rates of chronic diseases, and transportation. This revolutionary program will improve the lives of countless Oklahomans.”
ECHO, which stands for Extension for Community Health Outcomes, was first developed at the University of New Mexico in 2003. Through Project ECHO, primary care doctors are linked to expert specialist teams at an academic hub. Through education, training and collaboration, they manage patient cases together. Doctors also use video conferencing to consult with patients directly. Project ECHO operates more than 90 hubs worldwide covering more than 45 diseases and conditions.
“OSU-CHS Project ECHO clinics will help rural communities access specialty care in a convenient and cost effective way,” said Dr. Kayse Shrum, OSU-CHS President. “We look forward to partnering with clinics, health systems, community agencies and providers in rural Oklahoma to increase their specialty care capacity so that they can treat their patients locally instead of having to refer them out to urban areas.”
Terri White, Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, also participated in the Summit.
“Oklahoma has among the highest rates of mental illness and substance abuse issues in the country, yet the majority of Oklahomans in need of treatment do not get the services they need to find recovery,” said White. “That is especially true in rural areas of Oklahoma, where access to care may be miles away and other barriers to treatment, such as transportation issues, may arise. Lack of access to appropriate care hampers business productivity, destroys families, is the prime reason for our state’s rising and costly incarceration rate, and, tragically, results in too many early deaths through suicide or accidental drug overdose. Mental illness and addiction are the primary public health issues facing our state today and, when left untreated, lead to negative consequences for the individual, families, our communities and the state as a whole.”
“I think this is a really worthwhile program,” said State Sen. Mark Allen. “I enjoyed the Summit immensely. There is no doubt the citizens of rural Oklahoma will benefit from Project ECHO.”
The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.