ONC Beacon Communities Lead the Charge

Dr. David Blumenthal | May 5, 2010

Across the nation, in communities large and small, health information technology (health IT) innovators are boldly leading the way toward the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs). Yesterday, we awarded $220 million in Beacon Community cooperative agreements to 15 trailblazing community consortiums that will demonstrate how the meaningful use of electronic health records can serve as a critical foundation for achieving measurable improvement in the quality and efficiency of health care in the United States.

Health care providers often suggest that health IT is challenging to implement, and that certain types of communities are better prepared (and funded) to reap its benefits.

The 15 Beacon Communities named today, however, demonstrate the significant diversity among those who have been successful in implementing and using health IT. The areas of diversity represented in the consortiums receiving grants include:

  • Geographic – Beacon Communities are located from coast to coast and beyond to Hawaii
  • Population Density – Beacon  Communities serve both urban and rural populations
  • Populations – Beacon programs address health disparities among minority populations, including Native American, African American, and Hispanic, among others

Equally important, these communities are committed to demonstrating tangible outcomes:

  • Individual Health Outcomes – Beacon Communities’ outcomes encompass a variety of disease states and treatment approaches, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Population Health outcomes – Beacon Communities target varying dimensions of population and public health, from improved immunization and cancer screening rates, to innovations for public health surveillance

Additionally, the Beacon Community Program demonstrates robust collaboration among Federal agencies.   Two of the grantees seek to improve Veterans’ care by leveraging the Department of Defense’s and Department of Veteran Affairs’ Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) program for active duty, Guard and Reserve, retired military personnel, and eligible separated Veterans.

These diverse partners will provide unique insights into best practices that can be applied to similar communities nationwide, as they strive to build a health IT infrastructure as a critical foundation for health system improvement. In doing so, the Beacon Community program will support the nationwide adoption of health IT by 2015.

I congratulate the Beacon Community awardees and am confident the Beacon Communities will succeed in demonstrating the promise of health IT and facilitating other communities’ adoption and meaningful use of technology.

–David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P. – National Coordinator for Health Information Technology