Beacon Community program seeks to curb diabetes across country

WASHINGTON Vice President Joe Biden and the Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius have announced a pilot program designed to curb diabetes in 15 selected U.S. cities with the help of health-information technology.

The Beacon Community program will use health IT resources within their community as a foundation for bringing doctors, hospitals, community health programs, federal programs and patients together to design new ways of improving quality and efficiency to benefit patients and taxpayers, the White House said in a release.  Each Beacon Community has elected specific and measurable improvement goals in each of three vital areas for health systems improvement: quality, cost-efficiency, and population health. The goals vary according to the needs and priorities of each community.

Communities will use their Beacon Community awards to provide better control of blood pressure for diabetic and hypertensive patients, improvements in care coordination and chronic disease management, reductions in preventable emergency department visits and re-hospitalizations, reductions in health disparities, better rates of immunization for children and adults, and better adherence to smoking cessation and appropriate cancer screening guidelines, the White House said in a release. The Beacon projects are expected to initially create dozens of new jobs in each community paying an average of $70,000 per year for a total of 1,100 jobs up-front, while accelerating development of a nationwide health IT infrastructure that will eventually employ tens of thousands of Americans.

Cities included in the program are: Tulsa, Okla.; Stoneville, Miss.; Brewer, Maine; Danville, Pa.; Salt Lake City; Indianapolis; Spokane, Wash.; Rochester, Minn.; Providence, R.I.; Junction, Colo.; Concord, N.C.; San Diego; Hilo, Hawaii; and Buffalo, N.Y.

“The most important healthcare innovations are those that are designed and tested by providers and community leaders all across the country. Beacon Communities will offer insight into how health IT can make a real difference in the delivery of health care,” said Secretary Sebelius. “The Beacon Community Program will tap the best ideas across America and demonstrate the enormous benefit health IT will have to improving health and care within our communities.”