HHS Funds 'Beacon' Communities

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The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded grants totaling $220 million to organizations in 15 communities to serve as pilot sites for comprehensive use of health information technology.

The grants, funded under the HITECH Act, are for the Beacon Communities program to build and strengthen health I.T. infrastructure and health information exchange capabilities in the selected localities. Another $15 million will be provided for technical assistance.

The goal of the program is to accelerate and demonstrate the benefits of health information technology, while laying the groundwork for establishment of tens of thousands of health I.T. jobs. Federal officials expect the 15 Beacon Communities to create up to 1,100 jobs paying an average of $70,000 a year.

Beacon Communities will tackle specific goals of improving health care and population health status through advanced use of I.T. These include obesity and diabetes management, preventable emergency department visits and re-hospitalizations, increased immunizations, better adherence to smoking cessation, and appropriate cancer screening guidelines, among others.

The communities will work closely with regional technology extension centers created and funded under HITECH, as well as state health information exchange initiatives and the National Health Information Technology Research Center to ensure the dissemination of lessons learned. The 15 Beacon Communities grant awardees are:

* Community Services Council of Tulsa, Okla., $12,043,948;

* Delta Health Alliance Inc., Stoneville, Miss., $14,666,156;

* Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, Brewer, $12,749,740;

* Geisinger Clinic, Danville, Pa., $16,069,110;

* HealthInsight, Salt Lake City, $15,790,181;

* Indiana Health Information Exchange, Indianapolis, $16,008,431;

* Inland Northwest Health Services, Spokane, Wash., $15,702,479;

* Louisiana Public Health Institute, New Orleans, $13,525,434;

* Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., $12,284,770;

* Rhode Island Quality Institute, Providence, $15,914,787;

* Rocky Mountain Health Maintenance Organization, Grand Junction, Colo., $11,878,279;

* Southern Piedmont Community Care Plan, Concord, N.C., $15,907,622;

* The Regents of the University of California at San Diego, $15,275,115;

* University of Hawaii at Hilo, $16,091,390; and

* Western New York Clinical Information Exchange, Buffalo, $16, 092,485.

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--Joseph Goedert


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