Hawaii Beacon touts new successes

Says 'aloha' to telehealth, new care models
By Erin McCann
09:55 AM
When ONC reported to Congress last month on both the HITECH Act's achievements and the barriers left to overcome, officials cited notable progress seen across the $250 million Beacon Community projects. Hawaii Island Beacon Community is one among them reporting that they're now more connected than ever, with 84 percent of their primary care physicians having adopted electronic health records
In 2010, ONC awarded the Hawaii Island Beacon Community $16.1 million in funding to spur health information technology efforts within the community. And despite being billed as one of the most rural and geographically isolated of the 17 Beacon Communities, HIBC has reported improvements after expanding health information exchange and tapping into telemedicine technologies and new care delivery models. 
Using the grant money, HIBC facilitated the first functioning regional health information exchange on Hawaii Island, officials say. The North Hawaii HIE connects a variety of clinical data sources to the Alere Accountable Care Services platform. The 354 staff members at the 33-bed North Hawaii Community Hospital, in addition to physicians practicing in North Hawaii, can now access the same data and share information through a secure messaging system for more efficient clinical decision-making and communication.
“These achievements have laid the foundation for readiness to operate in a changing health care environment,” said Susan B. Hunt, project director and CEO of HIBC in a news release. “Our providers on Hawaii Island are among the nation’s early adopters of best practices in health IT supported care delivery transformation. According to SK&A Research, close to 40 percent of our primary care providers have achieved Stage 1 meaningful use of their EHRs."
Hunt pointed out that nineteen primary care practices serving some 20,000 patients achieved Patient Centered Medical Home status by completing a yearlong training program. 
In geographically isolated areas such as the Hawaiian Islands, telemedicine initiatives are also helping to reach more patients, officials say. HIBC has brought telehealth technology to physicians’ offices and patients’ homes. Advanced retinal screening devices and remote monitoring systems have enabled more frequent screening of patients for chronic disease management and intervention.
More than 500 patients with complex care needs enrolled in HIBC’s Care Coordination and Care Transitions initiatives throughout Hawaii County, including Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations at greater risk for chronic illness, officials point out. The initiatives involved programs that test new ways to manage these illnesses. These patients have made significant improvements in controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. 
“HIBC has done a tremendous job in bringing key stakeholders to the table,” said Sharon Vitousek, MD, board president for HIBC, in a HIBC new release. “Island-wide collaboration, partnerships between providers and community organizations, and showcasing Hawaii Island as an innovator on a national level – it’s something to be proud of and we have laid a solid foundation for a better health care system today and in the long run.”
HIBC’s federal cooperative agreement officially ends on Sept. 30, 2013. However, a great deal of interest remains in continuing the work that has been started by the participants in the project. HIBC stakeholders have committed to continuing to collaborate on further health care improvements for Hawai‘i Island.