NMU Health Sciences: Project ECHO Launches Program To Meet Needs Of Growing Geriatric Population

NMU Health Sciences News:

New Mexico’s fastest-growing population is a graying one: nearly 19 percent of residents are 65 years or older, according to the U.S. Census.

That’s why Project ECHO is launching a new program to equip the state’s primary care providers with best practices for this age group. Every two weeks, New Mexican clinicians are invited to attend a free, virtual telementoring session, to learn from experts in the field of geriatrics.

“Everyone has a grandparent or older person in their life, and everyone is going to age. It’s important that we provide the highest-quality care to our seniors,” says Heather Brislen, MD, a private practice clinician and co-medical director of the New Mexico Care of the Older Patient ECHO.

People over the age of 60 experience physiological changes that become clinically significant, requiring adjustments to their medical therapies. They also face physical mobility challenges, memory issues and have a slower recovery, all of which need to be addressed in an evidence-based holistic manner. In addition, many older patients live in rural areas on low or limited income, presenting a unique challenge to accessing care.

“We want to equip New Mexico’s primary care clinicians to handle this type of specialized care close to home, so patients don’t have to travel and spend hours in a specialist’s waiting room,” says Nitin Budhwar, MD, an associate professor in The University of New Mexico Department of Internal Medicine and chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine who serves as the ECHO program’s co-medical director.

“There’s also better continuity of care if they can see one person regularly instead of a new specialist for each issue,” he says. “And, when a referral is needed, the primary provider will have a better understanding of how the system can add value to what is already being done.”

The ECHO program will include guest speakers who are subject matter experts in memory and aging, pharmacology, physical therapy, psychiatry and others.

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