ONC Releases New Brief on Lessons Learned from the Beacon Communities

Beacon Communities Show Progress in Using Electronic Data for Quality Measurement

The ONC’s Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program funds 17 communities across the U.S. The Beacon Community Program is an initiative of the HITECH Act and supports our national effort to advance EHR adoption and meaningful use. The three goals of the Beacon Communities are to:

  1. To build and strengthen health IT and measurement infrastructures.
  2. Improve efficiency, quality, and population health.
  3. Test innovative approaches to care delivery, performance measurement, and technology integration.

Yesterday, the ONC released a new brief, Building a Foundation of Electronic Data to Measure and Drive Improvement. The brief highlights the work of the Beacon Communities in measuring and improving care.  As the brief notes: “if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”.  And the introduction and steady increase in EHR and health IT adoption  is key in generating, measuring and improving health information.

From the brief:

Quality measurement has historically relied on administrative claims data, manual review of paper records, and patient surveys. While administrative data can be valuable for measuring processes and utilization, they lack the level of clinical detail necessary for robust measurement. Thus, there is growing interest in augmenting insurance claims data with clinical data, and the expanded use of electronic health records (EHRs) provides a rich source of  these data. At the same time, the field is moving toward the use of electronic measures (eMeasures), which include traditional paper-based measures that have been converted to electronic measures, as well as novel measures enabled by the electronic capture of more and more diverse data via health IT. Developers of these latter measures are taking advantage of electronic data and health IT capabilities to build innovative measures that are better able to express patient care.

The brief identifies four challenges and solutions when using health IT and data to measure improvement:

Lessons Learned from the Beacon Communities



The authors of the brief conclude that lessons learned from the Beacon Communities show progress has been made in using EHR data to support quality measurement and improvement. That said, they acknowledge hurdles remain including “enhancing health IT tools, standardizing data elements and measure specifications, building trust amongst stakeholders, and translating quality measure performance into actionable steps to drive improvement.”

View or download the brief here.