Improving kids' care: Beacon Communities talk about what works

Technology, including portals and text alerts, is at the heart of the Southeast Minnesota Beacon Community's efforts to improve communication between caregivers, physicians and schools about managing children's asthma.

Without a system to store parental permissions, school nurses and health systems were unable to communicate directly about children's asthma symptoms--leaving nurses calling parents each time a child had a flare-up.

It brought together community physicians and nurses, school nurses, public health experts, asthma experts, IT experts and a project manager to develop standardized language for the AAP across healthcare systems and an electronic transfer system that could be sustained with community resources.

Through a secure, locally hosted portal, parental permissions are stored, AAPs transmitted to schools and messaging enabled between the parties, writes Barbara Yawn, director of research for Rochester, Minn.-based Olmsted Medical Center in a post at Health IT Buzz. Local healthcare systems have agreed to fund the project for the next five years and possibly expand it.

The Minnesota project is just one of the initiatives outlined in the ONC's issue brief "Spotlight on Kids: Beacon Community Efforts to Improve Pediatric Prevention, Care, and Outcomes."

The Cincinnati Beacon Community worked to reduce preventable ED visits and admissions for children with asthma using a multifaceted approach, including alerts sent to those patients' primary care providers.

The Southern Piedmont Beacon Community in North Carolina partnered with local health departments and schools to create an online Daily Disease Registry, in which public school nurses collect and enter counts of student symptoms at their schools each day for public health monitoring. It also created an automated health educator called Anna that provides information to families about the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and how to use WIC instruments to purchase food.

"Just as the disease registries, immunization registries, school portals and alert systems facilitated care coordination among children's providers, parents and schools in the Beacon Communities, and increasing interoperability among pediatric and adult health IT systems will ensure continuity of care throughout childhood and into adulthood," the brief concludes. "Perhaps most importantly, these advanced functionalities and emerging tools must also support the engagement of children and families in in their care."

A study published last fall from the University of California, San Francisco found that hospital readmission rates for children with common pediatric conditions, including asthma, were not a barometer of hospital quality.

To learn more:
- read the Health IT Buzz post
- here's the issue brief


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