Impact of Project ECHO Models of Medical Tele-Education

A Systematic Review

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine, Volume 34, pages 2842–2857 (2019). doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-05291-1

Posted on on December 18, 2020

by Ryan K. McBain, Jessica L. Sousa, Adam J. Rose, Sangita M. Baxi, Laura J. Faherty, Caroline Taplin, Andre Chappel, Shira H. Fischer

Read More

Access further information on this document at Journal of General Internal Medicine

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.


Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) and related models of medical tele-education are rapidly expanding; however, their effectiveness remains unclear. This systematic review examines the effectiveness of ECHO and ECHO-like medical tele-education models of healthcare delivery in terms of improved provider- and patient-related outcomes.


We searched English-language studies in PubMed, Embase, and PsycINFO databases from 1 January 2007 to 1 December 2018 as well as bibliography review. Two reviewers independently screened citations for peer-reviewed publications reporting provider- and/or patient-related outcomes of technology-enabled collaborative learning models that satisfied six criteria of the ECHO framework. Reviewers then independently abstracted data, assessed study quality, and rated strength of evidence (SOE) based on Cochrane GRADE criteria.


Data from 52 peer-reviewed articles were included. Forty-three reported provider-related outcomes; 15 reported patient-related outcomes. Studies on provider-related outcomes suggested favorable results across three domains: satisfaction, increased knowledge, and increased clinical confidence. However, SOE was low, relying primarily on self-reports and surveys with low response rates. One randomized trial has been conducted. For patient-related outcomes, 11 of 15 studies incorporated a comparison group; none involved randomization. Four studies reported care outcomes, while 11 reported changes in care processes. Evidence suggested effectiveness at improving outcomes for patients with hepatitis C, chronic pain, dementia, and type 2 diabetes. Evidence is generally low-quality, retrospective, non-experimental, and subject to social desirability bias and low survey response rates.


The number of studies examining ECHO and ECHO-like models of medical tele-education has been modest compared with the scope and scale of implementation throughout the USA and internationally. Given the potential of ECHO to broaden access to healthcare in rural, remote, and underserved communities, more studies are needed to evaluate effectiveness. This need for evidence follows similar patterns to other service delivery models in the literature.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.