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Beacon Community Update from Aaron McKethan, PhD

Dr. McKethan, National Director for Beacon Communities in the Office of the National Coordinator, sent me a very nice email a few days ago. Aaron graciously gave me permission to share his update through the AmericanEHR blog.

As you know, the 17 diverse Beacon Communities aim to:

1. Build and strengthen their local health IT foundation for supporting long-term health care improvement at the community level,

2. Implement new clinical care delivery initiatives in the short run to help improve health care outcomes and lower spending over the next few years, and

3. Serve as “innovation hubs” for testing and scaling new approaches to performance measurement, data aggregation, and new technologies (see link).

We are just concluding our first year of the program. In the first year, Beacon leaders established or strengthened governance mechanisms, formalized local project aims and related performance measures, and specified the interventions and technologies they’ll use to achieve those aims (see link).

As we enter Year Two, Beacons are busily implementing technologies and interventions and collecting early data to inform further implementation. Twelve Beacon Communities are working with hospitals, practices, and long-term care service providers to implement technologies and process improvements related to care transitions (e.g., post-discharge processes, medication reconciliation, information flow, analytic approaches for identification of patients with high-risk needs and targeted interventions for particular types of patients).

The second most predominant focus area (twelve communities) is on care redesign activities within physician practices and health clinics (making the most effective use of EHRs, registries, performance measurement, decision support, process redesign). Nine Beacons are testing a range of consumer e-health interventions, which includes remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and mobile health. Finally, all communities are advancing their capacity to measure health system performance.

Health Affairs has published a blog series providing updates on Beacon Community initiatives and current achievements. Recent entries include status updates on Beacons in Central Indiana, Colorado, SE Minnesota, Eastern Washington. The most recent post (by Tulsa’s MyHealth CEO David Kendrick) nicely captures the challenge as well as the necessity of “uniting the tribes” (IT, QI, measurement, and payment) to achieve more seamless transitions of care. Check out Dr. Kendrick’s blog here.

Late last month, with two of our Beacon Communities (Crescent City Beacon in New Orleans and the Southeastern Michigan Beacon Community in Detroit), we announced a partnership with the CDC and the American Diabetes Association at the ADA’s Scientific Sessions in San Diego, CA. This partnership will focus on designing and deploying mobile health services in these two communities this fall, aiming to reach and engage the large segment of both populations that are at risk for, but undiagnosed with, diabetes. This collaboration will result in pilots in the early fall of this year that will yield insights about how to scale these kinds of technology-based health campaigns in other communities around the country. For more information about this campaign, please visit the blog here.

Finally, with support from the Commonwealth Fund, AcademyHealth is kicking off the “Beacon Evidence and Innovation Network (BEIN).” Through this project, AcademyHealth will convene and assist the Beacon Communities in identifying, documenting, and disseminating the lessons and results of their individual efforts in a systematic way. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to generate actionable, rigorous evidence from the Beacons on identifying strategies for leveraging health information technology to improve patient care and reduce costs. We are very excited about kicking off this important effort to maximize the value, volume, and timeliness of relevant findings emerging from the Beacon Communities. See more information here.

Next month, I’ll update you on additional activities about individual communities and their progress to date. I’ll also share some information about new pilots being developed in Beacon Communities with Dartmouth colleagues (Elliott Fisher and Gene Nelson, among others) to test patient-reported outcomes using EHRs and health information exchange as a means of preparing for future national opportunities for performance measurement.

Thanks for reading.

Aaron McKethan, PhD.
National Director, Beacon Communities

 

Any members of the AmericahEHR Community working within a Beacon project? Tell us how it is going from your perspective.

This post is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American College of Physicians (ACP). ACP does not endorse a specific EHR brand or product and ACP makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided herein.

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