Four Seasons receives grant to expand palliative care access in WNC

Dr. Elizabeth Burpee. Image courtesy of Four Seasons Compassion for Life

From Four Seasons Compassion for Life:

Project ECHO to Expand Palliative Care Access Across the Carolinas

Four Seasons Compassion for Life was recently awarded $750,000 from The Duke Endowment for a grant entitled “Project ECHO to Expand Palliative Care Access Across the Carolinas.” In collaboration with Duke University Medical Center, Delta Care Rx and the ECHO Institute, Four Seasons will use the Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) model to train and mentor providers in rural communities across the Carolinas in how to deliver high quality palliative care services. Palliative care addresses the needs of people living with a serious illness through symptom management, psychosocial, spiritual care, advance care planning, and coordination with community-based resources to improve quality of life for both the patient and family. However, geographic barriers and the shortage of palliative care providers results in people not having access to palliative care, and providers struggling to provide care to people, especially in rural areas. Having access to palliative care will allow people living in rural areas to be cared for in their community, without having to travel to an academic or urban area.

Four Seasons Chief Executive Officer, Millicent Burke-Sinclair adds “We are grateful to be recipients of this grant as it furthers our vision of innovating healthcare so that we can influence humanity through trusted care. Positively impacting the life of every individual we care for through our continuum of care is imperative to us and through this grant we will be able to expand opportunities for our care team to provide excellent co-created care wherever our patients call home.”

Using telehealth, project ECHO links expert specialists with providers through virtual clinics, where the specialists mentor and train the providers to manage a condition that was previously outside their expertise. Started at the University of New Mexico in 2003, Project ECHO began by developing an educational model to train clinicians in rural/underserved areas of New Mexico to care for patients with hepatitis C in their community. For this grant, Four Seasons will use the ECHO model to train providers in rural/underserved areas in the Carolinas to provide palliative care services.

Dr. Janet Bull. Image courtesy of Four Seasons Compassion for Life
Dr. Janet Bull. Image courtesy of Four Seasons Compassion for Life

Four Seasons Provider and Grant Project Manager, Dr. Elizabeth Burpee says “We are grateful to The Duke Endowment for giving us the opportunity to work towards expanding crucial Palliative Care services to underserved areas in the Carolinas. Palliative Care is a rapidly growing medical field whose approach is team based, and is focused on alleviating suffering. I believe that a Four Seasons-Project ECHO collaboration will not only allow providers in the Carolinas to enter and engage in an exciting global learning community, but will also allow us to provide world class care to our local patients and families.”

The goals of this grant are 1) To increase the number of providers in the Carolinas with training and mentorship in palliative care. 2) Improve provider knowledge and skills so that they can deliver high quality palliative care. 3) Increase patient access to end-of life-care that will improve patient/caregiver quality of life, lessen symptom burden and improve patient/family satisfaction. 4) To increase hospice utilization in rural communities.

On a local level, for the communities we serve right here in Western North Carolina, Four Seasons Regional Director Reggie Nichols comments that he feels palliative care “provides an extra layer of coverage and support to our community. It gives peace of mind to patients and families living day to day with an illness and through unique, intentional interactions provides assistance and guidance within the journey that no other specialty in medicine offers. Furthermore, the ECHO Grant is a blessing to the patients, families and communities of rural Western North Carolina and I could not be more honored to work for an organization that felt it was so important to bring this innovative service to our region.”

Janet Bull, the Chief Medical Officer at Four Seasons states “Workforce shortage issues will continue to impede the delivery of community-based palliative care for patients with serious illnesses. Using the ECHO model, we can reach providers in rural areas who need primary palliative skills along with enhancing skills of those advanced practitioners who lack the support of physicians in their service area. My hope is that demonstration of the value of the ECHO model regionally will allow national expansion, and that persons with serious illness in rural settings will have access to high quality palliative care.”

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