May 4, 2010 – An announcement today from Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius detailed a program to promote of a health-information exchange (HIE) and the use of telemedicine and patient self-management to improve care for all adults, including those needing long-term care or home-health services across rural areas by integrating electronic health records effectively.
Cooperative agreements have been awarded to 15 qualified non-profit organizations or government entities across the country representing diverse geographic areas, including rural and underserved communities.
To qualify for the Beacon Community Program, participants must:
• Build on existing an health IT infrastructure and exchange (HIE) to demonstrate care and cost savings;
• Have rates of electronic health record (EHR) adoption that are significantly higher than published national estimates; and,
• Coordinate with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONCHIT) programs for Regional Extension Centers and State Health Information Exchanges to develop and disseminate best practices for adoption and meaningful use of health IT.
Geisinger County, in central Pennsylvania is considered one of the country’s “most wired” healthcare organizations with an integrated EHR in all its outpatient clinics and hospitals, a networked patient health record (PHR) and other many regional health IT services. The EHR database contains information on more than 3 million patients, and these records are utilized by clinicians for both inpatient and outpatient records with integrated electronic scheduling, clinical lab and radiology system.
“Health IT on its own is not enough to improve healthcare delivery. We have to work together in partnerships such as these to improve care processes and coordinate care,” said Dr. Walker, “The Beacon Community Program is an incredible opportunity to extend the successes of Geisinger Health System to surrounding communities to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare.”
Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Beacon Community Program will take communities at the cutting edge of EHR adoption and health information exchange and push them to a new level of healthcare quality and efficiency. The program will establish cooperative agreements with communities to build and strengthen their health IT infrastructure and health information exchange capabilities to achieve measurable improvements in healthcare quality, safety, efficiency and population health. The resulting experience will inform efforts throughout the United States to support the meaningful use of EHRs, the primary goal of the federal government’s new health IT initiative.
“The most important health care innovations are those that are designed and tested by providers and community leaders all across the country. Beacon Communities will offer insight into how health IT can make a real difference in the delivery of health care,” said Secretary Sebelius. “The Beacon Community Program will tap the best ideas across America and demonstrate the enormous benefit health IT will have to improving health and care within our communities.”