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Using “Big Data” to provide insights into early adopters of continuing professional development: an example from Project ECHO


Introduction — Mental healthcare is often managed in primary care with limited specialist support, particularly in rural and remote communities. Continuing professional development programs (CPD) can offer a potential solution to further mental health training; however, engaging primary care organizations (PCOs) can be challenging. The use of “big data” to identify factors influencing engagement in CPD programs has not been well studied. Therefore, the aim of this project was to use administrative health data from Ontario, Canada to identify characteristics of PCOs associated with early engagement in a virtual CPD program, Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Ontario Mental Health (ECHO ONMH).

Methods — Ontario health administrative data for fiscal year 2014 was used to compare the characteristics of ECHO ONMH-adopting PCOs, and their patients, to nonadopter organizations (N = 280 vs. N = 273 physicians).

Results — ECHO-adopting PCOs did not differ with respect to physician age or years of practice, although PCOs with more female physicians were somewhat more likely to participate. ECHO ONMH adoption was more likely in regions with lower psychiatrist supply, among PCOs using partial salary payment models, and those with a greater interprofessional complement. Patients of ECHO-adopters did not differ on the basis of gender or healthcare utilization (physical or mental health); however, ECHO-adopting PCOs tended to have patients with less psychiatric comorbidity.

Conclusion — Models such as Project ECHO, which deliver CPD to primary care, are advanced to address lack of access to specialist healthcare. These findings support the use of administrative health data to assess the implementation, spread, and impact of CPD.



Crawford A, Sockalingam S, Serhal E, Zhou C, Gambin A, de Oliveira C, Iwajomo T, Kurdyak P. J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2023; Apr 17 [Epub ahead of print].

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