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6/14/2010
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Beacon Program Director Clarifies 'Meaningful Use'

Health IT pros are advised to look beyond implementing new IT systems to focus on showing how those systems will improve healthcare delivery.

When Aaron McKethan told potential applicants for awards under the Beacon Community Program that their proposals should demonstrate how health IT can "achieve Meaningful Use improvements in cost and quality in a three-year period and beyond," he could have been speaking to every health IT manager tasked with adopting modern health IT for a new age.

McKethan, program director for the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program, held a conference call on June 1 to brief more than 200 potential applicants on what they should include in their proposals as they prepare their applications for the last two Beacon Community awards, which will be announced in August.

McKethan, who spoke to InformationWeek after the call, said those charged with adopting new technology for healthcare delivery organizations shouldn't just be thinking about implementing new IT systems, but should also focus on showing how those systems will improve healthcare delivery.

"The whole arc of Meaningful Use of health IT is about wiring the country so that there are electronic health records and there's robust health information exchange happening, but for what? To achieve specific quality and efficiency improvements in the health system," McKethan said.

He also said that the work at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is about creating a foundation for the country's health IT system to develop concrete performance improvements that most Americans understand and value.

"We know that health IT is one critical aspect of the health system change, but it requires more than just adopting technology, it requires using the technology to change how consumers, physicians, and other healthcare personnel interact in ways that lead to fewer complications, more safety, more efficient care, and less duplication," McKethan told InformationWeek.

Earlier this month McKethan told potential applicants that, as they develop their proposals, they should share compelling stories at the local level that specify how health IT can play an important role in informing specific care delivery interventions and innovations. Once information is gathered through performance measures and feedback systems, the data can influence reforms and demonstrate how providers and meaningful users of health IT "are able to achieve very specific improvements in quality, population health, and efficiency during the three-year Beacon Program," McKethan said.

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