VA Connecticut Healthcare System Develops Multidisciplinary Cancer Care Conference


In 2011, the VHA Office of Healthcare Transformation launched Scan Echo, a tele-mentoring program for primary care providers and PACT team staff. The VA Medical Center at West Haven, Connecticut was selected as one of seven hub sites across the US, on the basis of a competitive proposal.

Scan Echo (now called VA ECHO) uses video-teleconferencing to provide primary care providers with case-based specialist consultation and didactic education, based on the highly successful ECHO model established by Dr. Sanjeev Arora at the University of New Mexico. Continuing Medical Education Credits are provided for each hour-long session. The program became fully operational at VA Connecticut in 2012 and now offers regular monthly or bi-monthly conferences in 8 specialties: Neurology, Nephrology, Cardiology, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Nursing Grand Rounds, Pulmonary Medicine/Sleep, Urology and Cancer Care. Our Medical Director is Dr. Robert Safirstein (Nephrology). Each specialty has its Clinical Director who conducts sessions and recruits other specialists from his/her department. Scan Echo West Haven has since conducted over 500 tele-clinics over the last 5 years comprising over 10,000 CME hours in these various specialties. We broadcast mainly at the noon hour so that providers can take advantage of our sessions during their lunch breaks.

VA ECHO conferences are available to all VA personnel nationwide and staff can subscribe to an email group list to be alerted to conference times and topics. Participants can link directly to the conference using Outlook Lync and see the slides in real time on their computer as they listen to the presentation. The presentations are recorded in real time and the slides with audio can be easily accessed on the VA Echo Sharepoint for download so staff can also listen to the conference at a later date.

Cancer Care Management Conference

The Cancer Care Management conference, moderated by Julie Beck, APRN, was developed to share best practices related to all aspects of cancer care. The first talk was in October 2016 and it has attracted a national audience. The Cancer Care Conference hosted 10 hour-long talks during the 2016-2017 Academic Year. Speakers were recruited from West Haven and from several other VISN’s. Topics included: Survivorship, Psychosocial Distress, Palliative Care, Cancer Navigation, Establishing a Clinical Trials Program and more. In its first year, the conference had 260 unique attendees from 21 VISN’s across all the disciplines including medicine, nursing, social work, pharmacy, psychology and administration. For the 2016-2017 academic year, the VA Echo Cancer Care Conference accounted for 508 CME education hours representing one-third of the total CME hours generated by the West Haven VA Echo program. This conference has provided a forum for providers across the disciplines to share best practices and discuss common challenges in caring for Veterans with cancer and has fostered new connections among staff at different VA sites. Planning for the second season of this conference is underway and we are recruiting new speakers. Ms. Beck presented highlights from the conference at the AVAHO Annual Meeting in Denver on September 15th. To learn more about these conferences or if you have a topic that you would like to present, please contact Julie Beck ( or Pradeep Mutalik (

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