Depression in children and adolescents is on the rise nationwide, and the first place many families seek care is their pediatrician’s office. Unfortunately, many pediatricians receive little to no formal training to treat mental health conditions. Which might explain why a depression management course offered in cooperation with the Center for Telehealth at Cincinnati Children’s is attracting pediatricians from throughout Greater Cincinnati.
The course is an opportunity for providers to engage with one another in a unique learning community. Last year, 18 providers completed the course, and another 24 are participating in its second cohort, which began in May.
The course takes place one weeknight a month for six months, using the Zoom video conferencing platform. Participants log on to the live meeting and spend an hour with Cincinnati Children’s faculty and staff from multiple subspecialties, including some from the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology.
The format includes a 15-minute lecture, case presentation, discussion and time for questions, focusing on topics such as how to manage complications of treating children with depression, prescribe medication and know when it is time to make a referral.
The course uses methodology from Project ECHO, a virtual learning network process developed by the University of New Mexico. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) began in 2003 to help community providers learn how to manage common, yet sometimes complex, diseases. The Center for Telehealth uses the Project ECHO model for courses about depression, hypertension and seizures/epilepsy.
A team of experts at Cincinnati Children’s led by Emily Harris, MD, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician and child and adolescent psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children’s, created the depression management course curriculum on behalf of the Center for Telehealth. Dr. Harris teaches the course, along with child and adolescent psychiatrist Courtney Cinko, MD, and clinical psychologist Jessica McClure, PsyD, both of whom are on faculty at Cincinnati Children’s.
“The lectures are the seeds of content knowledge, but the case discussions are deep and instructive, and are the richest part of the learning. Project ECHO creates a network of learners who make connections across participant practices and provides a platform to follow cases over time, ” says Dr. Harris.
Paul Korn, MD, a pediatrician who practices in Mason, Ohio, completed the depression management course in October 2018.
“About one-third of visits to pediatricians are for mental health concerns, so this kind of training is invaluable,” he says.
“The course gave me insights into things I might change in caring for patients with depression, and a greater comfort level with certain approaches and medical management. The training I received could allow me to make fewer referrals for specialty care, which means patients will receive the treatment they need more quickly," says Dr. Korn.
Since taking the course, Dr. Korn says he has shared his new knowledge with the other pediatricians in his practice to enhance the care they provide patients as well.
Provider feedback is making Project ECHO courses even better, Dr. Harris says. “We hope to develop additional mental health courses on topics such as anxiety, trauma and behavioral health practice transformation.”