HHS awards final Beacon Community grants

HHS officials today awarded $30 million in grants to organizations in the Detroit and Cincinnati areas by naming the final two pilot communities in the $250 million Beacon Community Program. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Cincinnati this morning to award nearly $13.8 million to Greater Cincinnati HealthBridge, while national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal visited Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit to honor the Southeastern Michigan Health Association, recipient of more than $16.2 million in funding.

Each grant runs for three years.

HealthBridge, a well-established health information exchange that serves 16 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, will use the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars to promote quality improvement and care coordination for patients in the region with pediatric asthma, adult diabetes and to encourage smoking cessation, according to HHS.

The Michigan group will team with other healthcare organizations in Detroit and several suburbs to apply technology to the treatment and prevention of diabetes, a disease that is rampant in the Motor City, Blumenthal said. The national coordinator spoke to FierceEMR by phone this morning, following his appearance at Henry Ford.

"Health IT probably has its most important effect through care coordination," Blumenthal told FierceEMR. He called diabetes a "sweet spot" for care coordination because treatment involves so many body systems and areas of medicine. For example, primary care physicians treating patients for diabetes could use an EMR to schedule eye and foot exams as well as track lipid levels and kidney-function tests, according to Blumenthal.

"We see that diabetes is a priority condition for many of the beacon communities," Blumenthal said.

For further details:
- view this HHS press release
- visit the ONC Beacon Community Program page