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ACS completes pilot Project ECHO on LGBTQ+ and cancer care

North Central Region project focused on primary care lens.

The American Cancer Society Patient Support Pillar team recently completed a seven-month Project ECHO focused on “LGBTQ+ and Cancer Care through the Primary Care Lens.” This pilot project was led by ACS team members Elizabeth Holtsclaw, cancer support strategic partnership manager, and Rachael King, senior director, cancer support strategic partnerships manager. The project was partially funded by a Merck grant and included  participation from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a hub-and-spoke tele-mentoring environment conducted virtually. Hubs include a facilitator and expert faculty who share best practices and contribute to learning through case-based and didactic learning. Spokes learn from each other and experts from across the United States. Since 2018, ACS has used this model to educate health care professionals and to help reduce health disparities.

The goal of this ECHO series was to help primary care practices increase their knowledge of the unique needs and barriers for cancer prevention, screening, and early detection for the LGBTQ+ population. Topics included creating welcoming and affirming communication, shared decision making, HPV vaccination, reproductive tract cancer in sexual minority women, breast/chest cancer screening, and cancers among gay and bisexual men.

ACS team members and volunteers can learn more about this project’s work, review resources, and recorded sessions here

This project has already had a tangible impact, Holtsclaw said. The Vanderbilt University Primary Care team in Nashville, TN, for example, was inspired at the June ECHO session and realized they had significant opportunity to increase their standard of care. 

The Nashville-based practice has since taken several steps to address opportunities, such as including pronouns on staff name badges and collecting sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) from patients. The practice created a “LGBTQ+ Inclusion Committee,” the members of which have all participated in ECHO sessions. This multidisciplinary committee includes everyone in the clinic who engages with patients. The practice is treating this as a full quality improvement project including creating a process map for how LGBTQ+ patients receive care in the clinic. 

“The committee plans to continue to meet now that the ECHO has finished and are hoping they will be able to expand this best practice to other Vanderbilt clinics,” Holtsclaw said. “Our team at ACS is excited about this progress and other examples from this ECHO and we are hopeful we can continue to grow this work.”

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