The HIV Telehealth Training Program is patterned after the model adopted in Vietnam, which was largely motivated by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center’s Department of Internal Medicine’s Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) or Project ECHO. The latter was developed as an innovative approach to improve access to high quality clinical care among rural and underserved population in New Mexico through capacity building of primary care physicians and other healthcare workers. Project ECHO used videoconferencing technology to bring together multiple community-based primary care physicians with specialists from academic centers for the purpose of co-managing the patients handled by the former.
Telehealth allowed for providers from multiple locations to connect simultaneously with a central team of experts, allowing for experience sharing and peer-to-peer learning between clinical sites. Learning is exponential, as participants can also serve as hubs of information of the institutions within their jurisdiction.
Three years after its implementation in Vietnam, the success of telehealth is seen in the establishment of over 17 central hubs in their respective territories, leading to a network of 695 clinical sites, participants from 62 provinces. Certification of healthcare providers in HIV medicine were established through online courses, which was organized by five hubs, enabling 779 providers from 46 provinces to professionalize their services – physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and others.
Evaluation of the program showed improvement of self-assessed confidence in HIV care (mean baseline score 2.9; mean post score 3.9; p<.001), quality of care provided, and reduction of professional isolation.
SHIP Medical Director Dr. Kate Leyritana visited HAIVN to witness this marvel of distance education personally, and with the help of country director Dr. Todd Pollack and the Ho Chi Minh branch support staff, she was able to learn about Telehealth enough to propose it for the Philippines.