Most beacon communities serve the bushes

The aim is clear. Save money on treating chronic conditions through the use of data.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

Vice President Joe Biden personally handed out the 16 promised "beacon community" grants yesterday and a quick analysis shows they're focused on rural communities and small metros, not big cities.

The grants, which range in size from about $12-16 million each, are designed to make the recipients models of best practices using data from electronic health records (EHRs) to reduce costs and improve outcomes.

They were funded through the 2009 stimulus as the HITECH Act, and were selected with the help of the National Coordinator for Health IT, David Blumenthal.

Some of the winners were to be expected.

The Mayo Clinic is an acknowledged leader in automation and best practices. They're getting $12,284,770 to improve service to rural and under-served communities. The widely-respected Geisinger Clinic in Pennsylvania is getting $16 million to promote Health Information Exchanges and the medical home model.

If you're looking for a political message here you won't find it. Grants went to deep red states like Oklahoma, Mississippi, Utah, and Louisiana, as well as blue states like Hawaii, New York and Washington state.

If there is a message, it's the management of chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Rather than focus on hospital data, most of the money is going toward getting data to clinics and patients, hoping to keep these people out of hospitals.

But there are exceptions to even this rule. The $15 million grant to UC-San Diego will help improve the care of veterans. The $16 million going to the University of Hawaii in Hilo will build a Health Information Exchange and personal health records for use in remote care by specialists.

The aim is clear. Save money on treating chronic conditions through the use of data. Now how will the performance stack up?

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