The Beacon Community Program

The following guest post is provided by Wm. T. Oravecz, managing partner of WTO-Associates LLC.

Earlier this month, HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius announced $235 million in available funds, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed into law last February. The funds will support an innovative program to accelerate and demonstrate the ability of HIT in transforming local healthcare systems toward improving American’s health. Titled the Beacon Community Program, these grants will provide $220 million to support the development of HIT infrastructure and HIE capabilities including privacy and security within 15 qualified non-profit or government entities that represent diverse geographic areas, including rural and underserved communities.

Beacon Community grant applicants will be expected to:
1  Build off of existing health IT infrastructure and exchange to demonstrate care and cost savings;
2  Have rates of EHR adoption that are significantly higher than published national estimates; and,
3  Coordinate with recently announced Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) programs for Regional Extension Centers and State Health Information Exchange to develop and disseminate best practices for adoption and meaningful use of EHRs to support national goals for widespread use of health IT.

The additional $15 million will be to provide technical assistance to these communities and to evaluate the success of the program. The program will establish cooperative agreements with selected communities to build and strengthen their health IT infrastructure and health information exchange capabilities to achieve measurable improvements in health care quality, safety, efficiency, and population health.  The resulting experience will inform efforts throughout the United States to support the meaningful use of EHRs, the primary goal of the federal government’s new health IT initiative.

Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, emphasized that better health care does not come solely from the adoption of technology itself but through the ongoing private and secure exchange and use of health information to provide the best possible information at the point of patient care. The Beacon Community Program will help provide more hard evidence that health IT exchange can make a significant and positive difference in the delivery and value of healthcare.

Applications are due on February 1, 2010.  Award decisions for the Beacon Communities are anticipated in March 2010 and programs will last for a 36-month period. For more up-to-date information on the Beacon Community Program grant opportunities, go to the HHS Health IT web site.

Wm. T. Oravecz is Managing Partner of WTO Associates LLC.  Mr. Oravecz has 26 years of experience, holding various senior management positions with major IT solutions and healthcare technology firms. He holds a MBA from University of Connecticut and a SM in Radiology from the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago.  Contact him at: