Cincinnati and Detroit Beacon Communities underway

Last two Beacons turn on their lights

By Bernie Monegain
09:48 AM

Cincinnati and Detroit were the last two places awarded Beacon Community status under a government program aimed to provide models for the effective use of health information technology. David Blumenthal, MD, the nation’s health IT chief, called the awards, “the beginning of the beginning.”

Blumenthal and Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the awards on Sept. 2, bringing the total number of Beacon Communities to 17.

Cincinnati and Detroit were the last two places awarded Beacon Community status under a government program aimed to provide models for the effective use of health information technology. David Blumenthal, MD, the nation’s health IT chief, called the awards, “the beginning of the beginning.”

Blumenthal and Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the awards on Sept. 2, bringing the total number of Beacon Communities to 17.

The Greater Cincinnati HealthBridge, Inc. in Cincinnati will receive $13.8 million and Southeastern Michigan Health Association in Detroit will receive $16.2 million.

HealthBridge and its partners will undertake a three-year project focusing on pediatric asthma, adult diabetes and smoking. The Southeastern Michigan Health Association and its partners will focus on patients with chronic diabetes. According to SEMBCC, diabetes is prevalent among the target population, 12.8 percent of adults, or 93,000 people.
“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,” Sebelius said.

“We are delighted to be a part of a select group of communities demonstrating to the nation how technology improvements and community collaboration can bring about real change in our healthcare system,” said HealthBridge CEO Robert Steffel.

“Few communities can gather all of the unique community, technology and quality improvement assets that the Greater Cincinnati community can,” said Robert Graham, MD, project director for Cincinnati’s Aligning Forces for Quality initiative and professor of family medicine at the UC College of Medicine. “This is an ambitious collaboration, but the combined expertise of the community partners, the commitment of employers and health plans, and the dedication of our provider community are second to none.”

"By decreasing costs and improving the quality of care, a self-sustaining health information exchange serving southeast Michigan will be achieved," said SEMHIE Chairman Robert Jackson, MD, a family practice physician.

The federal government received more than 100 applications for the final two spots.

Applications were scored based on merit by objective review, the Beacon Community Program also looked at the promise that a community has for improving outcomes, geographical diversity, sustainability and strong local support.

“Besides the cogency of their technical plans, they showed a willingness to marshal resources among employers, plans and the state, which gave us confidence to move forward with the award,” Blumenthal said.

Senior Editor Patty Enrado contributed to this story.