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9/2/2010
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HHS Awards Beacon Grants To Cincinnati, Detroit

Local collaboratives will use government funding to pilot health IT to improve care of children and adults with chronic illnesses.




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Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday that Cincinnati and Detroit are the two final pilot communities selected under the Beacon Community Program. The awardees are the Greater Cincinnati HealthBridge, granted $13.8 million, and the Southeastern Michigan Health Association, awarded $16.2 million. The funds will be spent over a three-year period to accelerate the adoption of health IT that will help transform local healthcare systems.

"The Beacon program uses health information technology tools to link health providers and other community-wide resources in new and innovative ways," secretary Sebelius said in a statement. "Under the Beacon program, communities first identify leading health problems that are unique to their community, develop innovative, health IT-related strategies, and work together through community collaborations to implement their strategies and track their performance."

The Greater Cincinnati HealthBridge will serve a 16-county area spanning three states surrounding greater Cincinnati. Under the Beacon program, HealthBridge and its partners will use its advanced health information exchange (HIE) program to develop new quality improvement and care coordination initiatives focusing on pediatric asthma patients, adult diabetics, and smokers.

For example, not only will physicians and other providers receive more timely and accurate information about when their patients experience a medical complication or are hospitalized, they will have new support from care managers to use this information effectively to intervene early and assist patients in managing their health and avoiding further complications. The program aims to provide better clinical information and IT-based decision support tools to physicians, health systems, federally qualified health centers, and critical access hospitals.

As part of the Beacon program, this health IT community collaboration will also provide patients and their families with timely access to data, knowledge, and tools to make informed decisions and manage their own health and healthcare.

The Southeastern Michigan Health Association (SEMHA) and its partners in the greater Detroit area will use health IT tools and strategies to prevent and better manage diabetes, which today affects a large percentage of residents of the city of Detroit.

This community collaboration will leverage existing and new technologies across healthcare settings to improve the availability of patient information at the point of care, regardless of where the patient is in the health system. Furthermore, the collaborative will provide practical support to physician practices to help clinicians, nurses, and others make the best use of electronic health data to catch potential health complications before they arise. The city's clinicians will be able to track clinical outcomes with the overarching goal of making long-term, sustainable improvements in the quality and efficiency of diabetes care in Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Dearborn, and Dearborn Heights, Mich.

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