Introduction The Health and Social Care Board identified Project ECHO as a methodology to implement change. The aim was to develop the knowledge and skills of health and social care professionals, transform service delivery, and ultimately improve patient care. Up to 38 ECHO networks across a variety of settings (e.g. palliative care, ophthalmology) were established between 2018-2020.
Aim The aim of this study was to use the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) to guide assessment of the outcomes and impacts, and explore the factors which influence success across different contexts.
Methods Qualitative study; key stakeholders including high and low attenders, and hub members were purposively invited to participate in a semi-structured interview; interview schedules guided by the CFIR method utilised for data analysis.
Results 28 stakeholders participated. Network purpose varied across contexts, (i) provision of education and support to isolated practitioners; (ii) support practical implementation of strategies/guidelines across sites, (iii) support cross sector working, (iv) build capacity of GPs to manage patients on waiting lists, (v) transform and provide ongoing governance of a new service. Impacts on participants included increased knowledge of conditions and symptoms, increased confidence to treat patients, and increased capacity to manage patients in primary care. Improvements in relationships between primary and secondary care, and across sectors were also reported e.g. improved understanding of regional strategies, service initiatives and referral pathways. Impacts at service level were reported.
Conclusion Project ECHO is an ideal methodology for not only delivering education and support to health and social care professionals, but also as a mechanism for delivering service change. CFIR is a useful framework for identifying pre-conditions which should be met before a network is operational to ensure success and sustainability.
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