Introduction: Project ECHO Diabetes is a tele-education learning model for primary care providers (PCPs) seeking to improve care for patients with diabetes from marginalized communities. Project ECHO Diabetes utilized expert "hub" teams comprising endocrinologists, dieticians, nurses, psychologists, and social workers and "spokes" consisting of PCPs and their patients with diabetes. This Project ECHO Diabetes model provided diabetes support coaches to provide additional support to patients. We sought to estimate the costs of operating a Project ECHO Diabetes hub, inclusive of diabetes support coach costs.
Methods: Data from Project ECHO Diabetes from June 2021 to June 2022 and wages from national databases were used to estimate hub and diabetes support coach costs to operate a 6-month, 24-session Project ECHO Diabetes program at hubs (University of Florida and Stanford University) and spokes (PCP clinic sites in Florida and California).
Results: Hub costs for delivering a 6-month Project ECHO Diabetes program to five spoke clinics were $96,873. Personnel costs were the principal driver. Mean cost was $19,673 per spoke clinic and $11.37 per spoke clinic patient. Diabetes support coach costs were estimated per spoke clinic and considered scalable in that they would increase proportionately with the number of spoke clinics in a Project ECHO Diabetes cohort. Mean diabetes support coach costs were $6,506 per spoke clinic and $3.72 per patient. Total program costs per hub were $129,404. Mean cost per clinic was $25,881. Mean cost per patient was $15.03.
Conclusion: Herein, we document real-world costs to operate a Project ECHO Diabetes hub and diabetes support coaches. Future analysis of Project ECHO Diabetes will include estimates of spoke participation costs and changes in health care costs and savings. As state agencies, insurers, and philanthropies consider the replication of Project ECHO Diabetes, this analysis provides important initial information regarding primary operating costs.
Keywords: Cost; Diabetes; Diabetes support coaches; Hub; Project ECHO Diabetes; Spoke; Tele-education.
© 2023. The Author(s).