Forum Session

Beacon Communities: Signaling Success in Health Information Exchange?
March 2, 2012


Lisa Sprague, MBA


The electronic exchange of health information is a key element in the collective vision of a transformed American health system, contributing to both higher quality and greater efficiency in service delivery. The electronic health record (EHR) is a first step, but a means of making patient data available to a variety of authorized providers, payers, and the patient himself is also necessary. This kind of health information exchange (HIE) is one of the three main components of "meaningful use" of health information technology (IT).  A number of incentive programs have been devised to encourage the development of HIE. Among these is the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT's Beacon Community program. This program provides funding to 17 selected communities around the country that had, in ONC’s words, already made progress in the development of secure, private, and accurate systems of EHR adoption and HIE. (For more on the Beacon communities and their evaluation issues, see AcademyHealth's Beacon Evidence and Innovation Network.)

This Forum session considered the goals of HIE implementation and the kind of progress the country is making toward them. It looked at the role of incentive programs in fostering HIE initiatives, and how robust those initiatives may be expected to remain once grant funding is exhausted. Two Beacon communities, Greater Cincinnati and Southeastern Minnesota, were featured.


Related Materials

"The Beacon Community Program" (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, February 2012)

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