Dementia Community of Practice: A New ECHO

Jul 26, 2018


Dr Sarah Russell, Head of Research and Dementia Lead at Hospice UK, explains how Project ECHO is helping to train more people to support those affected by dementia.

The Hospice UK Dementia and End of Life Care Community of Practice (CoP) began three years ago as a partnership between Dementia UK and Hospice UK. It offers face-to-face events, networking and peer support to increase knowledge applied to practice and confidence in caring for someone with dementia. It does this through a community of practice approach: “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”, to enable all of us to learn from and support each other in order to open up hospice care to more people living and dying with dementia.

From humble beginnings of 34 members it now boasts over 250 members from across a variety of settings and roles.

One of the conundrums we have faced was how to support more practitioners in more settings and geographical regions? Face to face events have always been well evaluated – a combination of presentations by experts in their field as well as case studies from members and always lively and informative discussions. But how to enable those who could not physically attend – to be able to attend or contribute from afar? We experimented with conference calls and filming sessions – but this never quite seemed to meet the practical needs of our members.

So, we got our heads together and then Project ECHO came along.

What is Project ECHO ?

ECHO stands for Extension of Community Healthcare Outcomes. It creates a supportive ‘knowledge network’ through the hub and spoke approach where all members of the network are teachers and learners. Expertise lies both in the spokes and in the hub. It is a methodology; a way of working differently to enable better decision making by connecting existing networks and care communities with each other via a central online hub.

A Hub is an organisation which has undergone training and signed off on a licence to run knowledge networks. It provides IT and administration support, and usually the facilitator of the network, are based at the Hub. Hospice UK is an example of a Hub, running a variety of knowledge networks.

A Spoke is one of the connections of the network. Sometime spokes will include several individuals, for example the "Cedars care home" with five or six staff joining a care home knowledge network, the "Cedars spoke". Sometimes spokes may just be a single individual, "John Smith", joining the network – the "John Smith spoke".

The terminology is used to help keep account of all who join and are participating in a network and to make it easier for the administration staff to ensure that all are signed up as network members.

How does an ECHO run?

Spoke and hub members have initial meeting at which they establish a curriculum, times, dates, evaluation and responsibility for presenting teaching and cases at each meeting;

  • Commence knowledge network meetings, usually 75-120 minutes long;
  • 20-30 minutes teaching from topic expert. (Can be done from hub or spoke);
  • 2-3 case presentations based on template followed by network discussion;
  • Start and finish on time;
  • Facilitated by dedicated facilitator;
  • Supported by dedicated IT person and admin person;
  • All sessions filmed and along with additional materials forms a private online library that grows with the sessions

What Project ECHO therefore offered the Dementia CoP was an education and technology methodology to offer the members the same content (i.e. experts in their field, case studies and discussion) but in a way that will reach more people through the hub and spoke method and structure. We decided to take forward an ECHO so that we could provide more ECHO sessions a year as well as one annual face-to- face event on December 5 (this year at St Christopher’s Hospice in London).

The Dementia CoP ECHO leadership team is Dr Sarah Russell, Dr Karen Harrison Dening (head of research and publications, Dementia UK) and Liz Bryan (director of education and training, St Christopher’s Hospice). Our role is to make sure the ECHO happens.

The hub is Hospice UK with Sarah as the facilitator, with the team at Hospice UK supporting the smooth operation of the ECHO. The spokes are for anyone who wants to join as an organisation or as an individual.

How to join the Dementia Community of Practice ECHO?

We held our first ECHO awareness webinar on Wednesday July 4, and Karen Harrison Dening blogged about it straight away. You can read her thoughts on Look how far we have come!  Here is what you need to do to join the Dementia CoP ECHO:

  1. Make sure you are part of the Dementia Community of Practice. Everyone is welcome.
  2. Join the Dementia CoP ECHO. You will need to register for the Dementia ECHO Network.
  3. Email Hazel Webb to arrange for you to ‘Drop In’ to check your zoom and IT connections. The drop in sessions will take place:
  • Weds 1 August:        15.00 - 16.00
  • Tues 7 August:         12.00 - 13.00
  • Thurs 23 August:      13.30-14.30
  • Wed 29 August:        10.00-11.00
  • Mon 3 September:    14.00-15.00

In preparation for our ECHO curriculum planning webinar on the September 4, 12.30 – 13.45, (and even if you are planning to join) please complete our curriculum planning survey. This will enable us to report and decide upon your wishes and preferences for topics, timing, frequency and length of sessions for later in the year.

Once you are all registered we will send you the details about how to join the webinar to plan the future ECHO sessions.

We look forward to the next steps of the Dementia Community of Practice through our ECHO and how we can make a difference to people and their families living and dying with dementia.

What does hospice care mean to you?