Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes): A new model for educating primary care providers about treatment of substance use disorders

Subst Abus. 2016;37(1):20-4. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2015.1129388.


Background: Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) trains and mentors primary care providers (PCPs) in the care of patients with complex conditions. ECHO is a distance education model that connects specialists with numerous PCPs via simultaneous video link for the purpose of facilitating case-based learning. This article describes a teleECHO clinic based at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center that is focused on treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs) and behavioral health disorders.

Methods: Since 2005, specialists in treatment of SUDs and behavioral health disorders at Project ECHO have offered a weekly 2-hour Integrated Addictions and Psychiatry (IAP) TeleECHO Clinic focused on supporting PCP evaluation and treatment of SUDs and behavioral health disorders. We tabulate the number of teleECHO clinic sessions, participants, and CME/CEU (continuing medical education/continuing education unit) credits provided annually. This teleECHO clinic has also been used to recruit physicians to participate in DATA-2000 buprenorphine waiver trainings. Using a database of the practice location of physicians who received the buprenorphine waiver since 2002, the number of waivered physicians per capita in US states was calculated. The increase in waivered physicians practicing in underserved areas in New Mexico was evaluated and compared with the rest of the United States.

Results: Since 2008, approximately 950 patient cases have been presented during the teleECHO clinic, and more than 9000 hours of CME/CEU have been awarded. Opioids are the substances discussed most commonly (31%), followed by alcohol (21%) and cannabis (12%). New Mexico is near the top among US states in DATA-2000 buprenorphine-waivered physicians per capita, and it has had much more rapid growth in waivered physicians practicing in traditionally underserved areas compared with the rest of the United States since the initiation of the teleECHO clinic focused on SUDs in 2005.

Conclusion: The ECHO model provides an opportunity to promote expansion of access to treatment for opioid use disorder and other SUDs, particularly in underserved areas.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; distance; education; opioid-related disorders; substance-related disorders; vulnerable populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Community Health Services / methods*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Telecommunications / statistics & numerical data


  • Buprenorphine