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New Jersey Primary Care and Specialty Physicians Collaborate Through Project ECHO® to Bring Treatment for Complex Endocrinology to Primary Care Providers

Primary care providers throughout New Jersey will be able to increase their capacity to effectively screen and treat patients with diabetes, thyroid, metabolic bone or pituitary disease by participating in the cost-free, newly launched Robert Wood Johnson Partners Project ECHO® for Complex Endocrinology. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a collaborative model of medical education that builds relationships among a team of interdisciplinary specialists with primary care providers through videoconferencing sessions designed to help them treat more complex conditions in the primary care setting.

The heart of Project ECHO is the proven hub-and-spoke knowledge-sharing model that creates long-term mentoring partnerships.

“This is not traditional telemedicine where a primary care physician calls in to a specialist and then is told what to do,” says Eric G. Jahn, Senior Associate Dean for Community Health at Rutgers RWJ Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “This is an exciting peer-to-peer collaboration and learning opportunity for our participants, some of whom are coming to us with decades of endocrinology experience. After participating in several of these sessions, providers get a sense of best practice treatment options for their cases.”

Diabetes care in New Jersey

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, diabetes, the sixth leading cause of death in New Jersey, is preventable yet on the rise. It is also one of the conditions that disproportionately affects many minority groups, and as New Jersey is one of the most ethnically diverse states in the United States, doctors see a large number of patients with diabetes and related conditions.

“Project ECHO allows more patients to begin their treatment for conditions such as diabetes at the primary care level and see the specialist only if necessary for more advanced concerns. We hope to lessen the burden of health care costs at all levels,” said Project ECHO co-leader Stephen Schneider, M.D., a board-certified endocrinologist affiliated with Rutgers RWJ Medical School.

“There is often a wait time of several months for access to specialty care appointments for complex endocrine conditions in New Jersey, especially for Medicaid patients,” said Project ECHO co-leader Louis F. Amorosa, M.D., an endocrinologist at Rutgers RWJ Medical School. “With Project ECHO, we can reduce the wait by giving primary care providers the knowledge and capacity to treat these cases in the primary care setting.”

“Participating in Project ECHO gives me a sense of how specialists and my peers approach diagnosis and treatment of a case with complex endocrinology conditions, such as diabetes,” said Elizabeth Crowley, M.D., with Volunteers in Medicine, based in Cape May. “I’m grateful to have access to this resource and glad to be able to ask questions during and after each session. I practice in South Jersey and appreciate the chance to interact with other local and statewide providers.”

More ECHOs coming soon

Complex Endocrinology is one of three Project ECHO hubs offered by RWJ Partners. The second is a Pediatric Behavioral Health ECHO. The third is Chronic Pain Management, set to launch soon. All three ECHO clinics are funded by a two-year, $1.9 million grant from The Nicholson Foundation.

“We funded all three RWJ Partners Project ECHO Academic Medical Center hubs so that much-needed specialty services are available to patients within the primary care setting when they need it most,” said Arturo Brito, Executive Director of The Nicholson Foundation.

Leaders of the RWJ Partners Complex Endocrinology Project ECHO clinic include Steve Schneider, M.D., endocrinologist; Louis F. Amorosa, M.D., endocrinologist; Jackie Plick, A.P.N., certified diabetes educator; Mary Bridgeman, Pharm.D., pharmacist; and Laura Montenegro, M.S.W., licensed social worker. The specialty participating providers are drawn from a number of organizations across the state, including Rutgers RWJ Medical School, the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers and RWJ Partners.

How to Register for RWJ Partners Project ECHO

New Jersey primary care providers can participate at no charge using their computer or mobile device. Weekly sessions are held on Thursdays from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Participants can earn CME credits for each full session attended, and are asked to attend a minimum of 12 out of 48 ECHO clinic sessions over a period of one year. Participants may join on a rolling admission basis and choose the sessions that fit their schedule.

Sessions are 60 minutes. They begin with a 15-minute, specialist-led presentation on relevant endocrinology content and guidelines followed by a participant-generated HIPAA-compliant de-identified case discussion. CME credits are available for each completed full session.

To learn more about Robert Wood Johnson Partners Project ECHO, visit . To inquire or register for the Complex Endocrinology clinic, contact [email protected] or visit

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