Since May 2010, the Beacon Communities Cooperative Agreement Program (Beacon Community Program) has supported 17 communities from Maine to Hawaii as they build and leverage health IT systems to deliver high quality coordinated care, reduce costs, and improve population health. Throughout the program, AcademyHealth has provided support to the Beacon Communities, helping them document and share their experiences, challenges, and achievements.
On behalf of the ONC, AcademyHealth recently released the first in a series of issue briefs that describe key elements of the program and highlight crosscutting themes and findings. This first issue brief, “The Beacon Community Program: Three Pillars of Pursuit,” introduces the three main goals of the program:
- To build and strengthen health IT infrastructure and exchange capabilities in each community;
- To use IT systems to improve health care quality, costs, and population health; and
- To test innovative models of delivering care, measuring improvement, and integrating technologies.
The brief elaborates on each of those “Three Pillars” by examining specific examples and accomplishments from many of the Beacon Communities.
Under the first pillar of strengthening health IT infrastructure, the brief highlights the Southeast Minnesota Beacon Community for building new EHR and health information exchange (HIE) infrastructure, as well as the Cincinnati and Indiana Beacon Communities for expanding existing care coordination programs and HIEs.
The use of health IT to increase medication adherence, track performance, and quality indicators, and improve clinical care coordination, in the Mississippi Delta, Bangor, and Keystone Beacon Communities exemplifies the second pillar. These interventions are scalable and have already yielded reductions in costly hospital readmissions and emergency department (ED) visits.
Evidence of progress on the third pillar is apparent in innovative uses of technology, such as the deployment of a large-scale mobile application called txt4health in the Detroit, New Orleans, and Cincinnati Beacon Communities, to connect people at risk for diabetes with health resources. In addition, the San Diego Beacon Community is equipping ambulances with technology to send patient information to the ED before arriving.
The lessons learned from the Beacon Communities will be used to generate a robust, integrated, and generalizable body of knowledge that can be shared broadly to help improve care at the local level, and ultimately inform national policy. This issue brief, as well as forthcoming publications, serves as a vehicle for sharing this growing body of knowledge with stakeholders and policymakers as the Beacon Communities redouble their efforts to achieve the Three Pillars. For more information on the initiatives underway, please see the full report.