3 ways Beacons use data, standardized quality measures to transform care

Innovative pilots from the Beacon program have illustrated the potentialto bring together multiple sources of data and verify its validity to demonstrate the power of health IT to measure and improve care quality, according to a new policy brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

"The lessons from the Beacon Community program demonstrate the progress that has been made in using electronic data to support quality measurement and improvement, but also that hurdles remain, namely enhancing health IT tools, standardizing data elements and measure specifications, building trust amongst stakeholders, and translating quality measure performance into actionable steps to drive improvement," the paper notes.

EHRs and other health IT tools can drive improvements as sources of clinical data and as tools for aggregation and analysis, it says. Programs that layer in quality-based incentives for providers, action plans, educational outreach and care coordination also can help.

The brief outlines three examples of how Beacon Communities have used data and standardized quality reporting:

  • The Western New York Beacon Community addresses data validity by providing each of its practices quarterly feedback reports containing a series of graphs that summarize the proportion of missing and invalid data in the clinical registry. Practices, health information exchange and EHR vendor staff work together to improve data quality.
  • In the Bangor Beacon Community, where the existing EHR was not well tailored to the needs of care managers, the care managers collaborated with the IT department to customize workflow to support standard data collection. That involved developing new forms specific for their needs.
  • The Greater Tulsa Beacon Community has an analytics initiative to drive improvements at the practice level. It can import and aggregate data from disparate sources and address issues of data standardization and completeness. Through an interactive Web-based interface, users can see reports and dashboards that reflect trends and anomalies, helping them identify patients who need intervention.

Beacon Community representatives speaking at this summer's Government Health IT Conference & Exhibition stressed that all the focus on technology and data ultimately centers around empowering consumers.

"You can see there's a big theme coming--consumer and patient engagement. Access, action, attitude. Those things are moving together all the time in advancing the idea of shared decision making--with data, Ellen Makar, senior policy advisor for the office of consumer eHealth at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, told the audience.

To learn more:
- read the brief (.pdf)