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Beacon Community Program

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the purpose of the program?

    The Beacon Community Program will help to demonstrate and accelerate the role of health IT as a key foundation for transforming local health care systems as a way to improve the lives of Americans and the performance of the health care providers who serve them.

    The program encompasses communities on the cutting edge of electronic health record (EHR) adoption and health information exchange and equips them with the tools and resources to achieve a new level of health care quality and efficiency. These communities are best positioned to lead the way in achieving meaningful use of EHRs; Implement mutually reinforcing care delivery innovations, clinical redesign and payment reform processes that can contribute to measurable improvements in health and efficiency; and provide valuable lessons to other localities about models for achieving sustainable health system change. The resulting experience will inform efforts throughout the United States to support the "meaningful use" of EHRs and the use of other health IT resources to show how communities, regions, and states can undertake steps toward comprehensive performance improvement.

  2. What is the structure of the program?

    The Beacon Program provides $250 million in funding to support 17 communities, which are expected to have rates of EHR adoption that are significantly higher than published national estimates. These include communities that address the needs of rural communities and/or minority and other underserved populations. An additional $15 million will subsequently support technical assistance to the communities and an independent evaluation of the program.

    Though Beacon Communities represent a consortium of stakeholders, each Beacon Community's proposal was advanced by one "lead applicant" organization as the primary award recipient. As necessary, the lead applicant will make sub-awards (sub-grants) for approved activities to stakeholder organizations and/or other appropriate organizations, according to all applicable federal regulations and guidelines.

  3. What is the role of the awardees?

    Communities funded through this program will be expected to invest in the health IT architecture of the community and to develop and strengthen an existing infrastructure of interoperable health IT and standards-based information exchange while also advancing specific clinical and non-clinical interventions and programs that make use of data from health IT resources. All of this will be done to lead toward achieving specific health improvement goals developed by each community. As part of the cooperative agreements that will support the 17 chosen communities, recipients will be asked to define, track, and report on progress toward concrete, measurable health and efficiency goals. These might include reductions in blood pressure among hypertensives, reduced blood sugar levels among diabetics, lower smoking levels, or reductions in health care disparities among populations. It will also include steps to ensure that health IT-enabled quality improvement activities can also facilitate improvements in cost efficiency, as measured by reductions in avoidable complications when patients transition from one care setting to another and reductions in preventable emergency department (ED) visits and hospital readmissions, among others.

  4. Will awardees be expected to collaborate with other ONC and federal programs?

    Yes, Beacon Communities are required to coordinate with the State Health Information Exchange (HIE) Program and Regional Extension Center (REC) Program through the Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC) to develop and disseminate best practices for adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records and to facilitate national goals for widespread use of health IT.

    Beacon Communities are expected to maximize their efforts by leveraging other existing federal programs and resources that are working to promote health information exchange at the community level, including:

    • Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs development of a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Health Record (VLER) for all active duty service members, National Guard, Reserve, retired military personnel, and eligible separated Veterans
    • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) programs at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and the Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCNs) for the adoption of certified electronic health records and exchange of health information
    • Department of Agriculture and Department of Commerce efforts to extend broadband infrastructure
  5. Who was eligible to apply for this program?

    Qualified non-profit organizations or government entities representing health care communities in specific geographic areas were eligible to apply. Please note that the application process is now closed. Selected communities were already national leaders in the advancement of health IT, workflow redesign and care coordination, or quality monitoring and performance information feedback. In addition, successful communities have advanced rates of electronic health record (EHR) adoption and health information exchange (HIE), and the readiness to incorporate health IT to advance community-level care coordination and quality monitoring and feedback.

  6. Please provide details on the awards that have been made

    The 17 awards were made in the form of cooperative agreements to qualified non-profit organizations or government entities representing geographically diverse health care communities. View a list of the successful applicants.

  7. What is the duration of each award?

    The project period of each cooperative agreement awarded is 36 months.