Beacon Communities: One Year Review on Blog, Brookings and Webcast

Beacon Community Program

Blog: What We Can Learn from the Beacon Communities on Their First Birthday?
Brookings Event: May 17 8:30am to 12:00noon
Webcast From Brookings: Click here Health IT Buzz Blog: What We Can Learn from the Beacon Communities on Their First Birthday?

May 13, 2011 / Originally Posted by Aaron McKethan, Director of Beacon Communities Program, on ONC’s Health IT Buzz blog and reposted by e-Healthcare Marketing

A year has passed since 17 diverse communities nationwide were notified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) that they would receive Beacon Community awards. These critical resources empowered the Beacon Community Awardees (“the Beacons”) to build and strengthen their local health IT capacity, use health IT in innovative ways to improve the efficiency and quality of care they can provide their patients, and identify and disseminate these innovations and lessons-learned to others.

Over the past year, as we have documented in a recent Health Affairs article and as we will discuss at our upcoming May 17 Brookings Institution “Beacon Birthday” event, the Beacons have focused on clearly defining who their communities are. They have done so using data (such as patterns of where patients seek care), and community engagement activities (including public meetings and direct engagement with hospital leaders, physicians, and consumer organization leaders) to paint a picture of the local “community” on whose behalf the Beacon interventions are being deployed.

This past year has been a busy and productive one for the Beacons. For example, they have established governance structures that give local stakeholders a voice, but also permit the community to make decisions quickly when necessary. They have worked to achieve local consensus on core health and health care improvement objectives, while partnering with local evaluation, health IT, and clinical leaders to identify and establish baselines for relevant measures to track progress on meeting those objectives over time. Beacon leaders have also worked to design and deploy the initial wave of clinical interventions relevant to these objectives, such as changes in processes that hospitals use to discharge patients so they can manage their own health and exchange information with their regular physician. And, they have designed strategies to deploy those interventions in ways that will allow for refinements to be made based on early results. In other words, they have not only put in place innovative strategies for improving care, but also systems that allow them to learn from challenges and obstacles and make the improvements necessary.

Beacon Communities like that in Bangor, ME have used the development of a statewide governance process to ensure that performance improvement goals being pursued through the Bangor Beacon are aligned with overall policy and strategic goals at the state level.

Beacon Communities have also committed considerable time and attention to establishing a focused set of community objectives. The public officials and other health care leaders involved in the Crescent City Beacon Community in New Orleans, LA, for example, have worked hard to identify a core set of community objectives that unite the interests of the entire stakeholder community, including large academic health systems, small health centers, physician practices and, of course, patients. An encouraging aspect of this work is that these objectives are not merely being established to fulfill the requirements of the Beacon grant program, but also to help chart a course for the community over the longer term.

In addition, Beacon Communities have each worked to establish a baseline using performance measurements and data derived from multiple sources, including electronic health records. They have experienced firsthand the challenges of combining data from multiple sources to better understand the “current state” of the community’s performance on key indicators like hospital readmissions, rates of “good” diabetes care, or prevention indicators. The Keystone Beacon Community, for example, has used its baseline data to help track its progress in delivering care management support to patients facing multiple chronic conditions who typically face the highest risk of costly medical complications that can be prevented through careful care coordination and patient support. In fact, even at this early stage in its development, the Keystone Beacon Community has already documented the avoidance of several serious adverse events using its Beacon care managers and health IT systems.

Further, Beacon Communities in Colorado, North Carolina, and Utah have taken the lead in identifying strategies to facilitate providers participating in the program learning from each other about their experiences using technology and data for performance improvement. Just this week, for example, the Colorado Beacon Consortium is holding its second “learning collaborative” that will provide training and an opportunity for participating physicians and their staffs to learn how best to incorporate new technologies in their practices.

The first year of the Beacon Community program laid the ground work for rapid implementation of core interventions moving forward in each community that will support patients and clinicians in achieving better, more efficient outcomes over the next several years. As we now shift gears from program development to large-scale implementation of clinical interventions, we will take a moment to consider what we’ve already learned at this early stage of the Beacon program.

To learn more about just how far the Beacons have come in blazing the trail on innovatively using health IT to improve the health of their patients in ways that can be adopted by others, come join us on May 17 at the Brookings Institution’s Engelberg Center for Health Reform.Exit Disclaimer The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, Aneesh Chopra of the White House Office of Science and Technology, Joe McCannon from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Mark McClellan of the Brookings Institution, several Beacon leaders, and I will discuss how health IT may be best used to improve health care quality and reduce costs with a special emphasis on what we can learn from the experience of the Beacon Communities on their first birthday. We will also hear from Beacon leaders about their perspectives about how health IT-driven health care improvements can be sustained by linking health IT investments to payment reforms that increasingly reward improvements in outcomes.

Please also check out a series of blog posts by individual Beacons to be published by Health Affairs over the next week that will provide yet more detail on the truly innovative work Beacons are doing across the country to realize the potential of health IT to improve health and health care. Finally, please join me on May 18 between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. ET at #ONCchat for a live twitter chat moderated by Sherri Reynolds (Beacon Board member and consumer advocate engaged with Beacon development in Washington state) when I will be taking your questions about the topics and themes that emerge from the May 17 Brookings event and shared lessons-learned about the Beacons at the one-year mark.

Brookings Event:
“Health IT in an Era of Accountable Care: Update from the Beacon Communities”
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Hosted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution

The event will highlight:

  • Beacon Community Program accomplishments and future plans
  • Insights on meaningful use of health IT
  • The expansion of provider payment reforms

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Senior Advisor to the CMS Administrator Joseph McCannon, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Dr. Farzad Mostashari, and Director of Beacon Communities Program Aaron McKethan, will offer keynote remarks.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (EDT)

WHERE: Falk Auditorium, The Brookings Institution,
1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036

To join Brookings for this event, please RSVP to Erin Weireter at or 202-797-6033.

If you are unable to attend, the event will be available to remote participants via a free Webcast. A video will also be available soon after the event on the Brookings website and ONC YouTube channel.

If you have any questions regarding the Webcast or the event, please contact Amanda Misiti at

Brookings Event Agenda
Opening Remarks and Meeting Objectives
Mark McClellan, Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings

Keynote Address: An Update on the Federal Health IT Strategy

Aneesh Chopra, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Joseph McCannon, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Farzad Mostashari, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Panel I: Priorities for Health System Improvement

Aaron McKethan, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology – Moderator
Marc Bennett, HealthInsight, Inc.
Ted Chan, University of California, San Diego Medical Center
Sherry Reynolds, Beacon Community of the Inland Northwest
Julie Schilz, Colorado Beacon Consortium
Herb Smitherman, Jr., Wayne State University

Panel II: Harnessing IT for Payment Reforms

Mark McClellan – Moderator
Catherine Bruno, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems
Christopher Chute, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
Robert Steffel, HealthBridge
James Walker, Geisinger Health System

Closing Remarks

Mark McClellan
Farzad Mostashari

Free Live Webcast from Brookings. Archived video will also be available soon after the event on the Brookings website and ONC YouTube channel: .

Beacon Communities

(Accessed on ONC site on May 14, 2011)
Listed below are the 17 Beacon Communities, their awards, and snapshot of their goals. For further  information about a specific Beacon Community, click the name of the community. As of May 14, 2011, ONC has added a PDF overview of each Beacon Community in addition to a previously published video for each and the Community’s web site where they exist.

Beacon Community

Award Amount


Bangor Beacon Community, Brewer, ME $12,749,740 Improve the health of patients with diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, and asthma by enhancing care management; improving access to, and use of, adult immunization data; preventing unnecessary ED visits and re-admissions to hospitals; and facilitating access to patient records using health information technology.
Beacon Community of the Inland Northwest, Spokane, WA $15,702,479 Increase care coordination for patients with diabetes in rural areas and expand the existing health information exchange to provide a higher level of connectivity throughout the region.
Colorado Beacon Community, Grand Junction, CO $11,878,279 Demonstrate how costs can be reduced and patient care improved, through the collection, analysis, and sharing of clinical data, and the redesign of primary care practices and clinics.
Crescent City Beacon Community, New Orleans, LA $13,525,434 Reduce racial health disparities and improve control of diabetes and smoking cessation rates by linking technically isolated health systems, providers, and hospitals; and empower patients by increasing their access to Personal Health Records.
Delta BLUES Beacon Community, Stoneville, MS $14,666,156 Improve access to care for diabetic patients through the meaningful use of electronic health records and health information exchange by primary care providers in the Mississippi Delta, and increase the efficiency of health care in the area by reducing excess health care costs for patients with diabetes through the use of electronic health record.
Greater Cincinnati Beacon Community, Cincinnati, OH $13,775,630 Develop new quality improvement and care coordination initiatives focusing on patients with pediatric asthma, adult diabetes, and encouraging smoking cessation, and provide better clinical information and IT “decision support” tools to physicians, health systems, federally qualified health centers, and critical access hospitals.
Greater Tulsa Health Access Network Beacon Community, Tulsa, OK $12,043,948 Leverage broad community partnerships with hospitals, providers, payers, and government agencies to expand a community-wide care coordination system, which will increase appropriate referrals for cancer screenings, decrease unnecessary specialist visits and (with telemedicine) increase access to care for patients with diabetes.
Hawaii County Beacon Community, Hilo, HI $16,091,390 Improve the health of the Hawaii Island residents through implementation of a series of healthcare system improvements and interventions across independent hospitals, physicians and physician groups. Engaging patients in their own healthcare is also a primary focus.
Western New York Beacon Community, Buffalo, NY $16,092,485 Expand the Western New York network, close gaps in service, and improve health outcomes for patients with diabetes.
Utah Beacon Community, Salt Lake City, UT $15,790,181 Improve the management and coordination of care for patients with diabetes and other life-threatening conditions, decrease unnecessary costs in the health care system, and improve public health.
Central Indiana Beacon Community, Indianapolis, IN $16,008,431 Expand the country’s largest Health Information Exchange to new community providers in order to improve cholesterol and blood sugar control for diabetic patients and reduce preventable re-admissions through telemonitoring of high risk chronic disease patients after hospital discharge.
Keystone Beacon Community, Danville, PA $16,069,110 Establish community-wide care coordination through the expanded availability and use of health information technology for both clinicians and patients in a five-county area to enhance care for patients with pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.
Rhode Island Beacon Community, Providence, RI $15,914,787 Improve the management of care through several health information technology initiatives to support Rhode Island’s transition to the Patient Centered Medical Home model, which create systems to measure and report processes and outcomes that drive improved quality, reduce health care costs, and improve health outcomes.
San Diego Beacon Community, San Diego, CA $15,275,115 Expand electronic health information exchange to enable providers to improve medical care decisions and overall care quality, to empower patients to engage in their own health management, and to reduce unnecessary and redundant testing.
Southeast Michigan Beacon Community, Detroit, MI $16,224,370 Make long-term, sustainable improvements in the quality and efficiency of diabetes care through leveraging existing and new technologies across health care settings, and providing practical support to help clinicians, nurses, and other health professionals make the best use of electronic health data.
Southeastern Minnesota Beacon Community, Rochester, MN $12,284,770 Enhance patient care management, reduce costs associated with hospitalization and emergency services for patients with diabetes and childhood asthma, and reduce health disparities for underserved populations and rural communities.
Southern Piedmont Beacon Community, Concord, NC $15,907,622 Increase use health information technology, including health information exchange among providers and increased patient access to health records to improve coordination of care, encourage patient involvement in their own medical care, and improve health outcomes while controlling cost.

Health Affairs, April 2011
“An Early Status Report On The Beacon Communities’ Plans For Transformation Via Health Information Technology”
Authors: Aaron McKethan, Craig Brammer, Parastou Fatemi, Minyoung Kim, Janhavi Kirtane, Jason Kunzman, Shaline Rao, and Sachin H. Jain.

Aaron McKethan is program director and Craig Brammer is the deputy director of the Beacon Community Program in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Department of Health and Human Services, in Washington, D.C.

“Based on the early experiences of the seventeen diverse Beacon Communities, this paper describes program design features that characterize how these initiatives are organized.”

Link to Health Affairs Abstract

Secy Sebelius names Dr. Farzad Mostashari as new National Coordinator for Health IT

Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM

Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM

Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM serves as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Farzad joined ONC in July 2009.

Previously, he served at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as Assistant Commissioner for the Primary Care Information Project, where he facilitated the adoption of prevention-oriented health information technology by over 1,500 providers in underserved communities. Dr. Mostashari also led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded NYC Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics and an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funded project focused on quality measurement at the point of care. Prior to this he established the Bureau of Epidemiology Services at the NYC Department of Health, charged with providing epidemiologic and statistical expertise and data for decision making to the health department.

He did his graduate training at the Harvard School of Public Health and Yale Medical School, internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, and completed the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service. He was one of the lead investigators in the outbreaks of West Nile Virus and anthrax in New York City, and among the first developers of real-time electronic disease surveillance systems nationwide.

Related Articles

On April 11, 2011 post on Life as a Healthcare CIO, John Halamka provided his take on “What can we expect from Farzad?” Mostashari.

On April 8, 2011, Christine LaFave Grace and Joseph Conn wrote a story for Modern Healthcare titled “Healthcare leaders hail selection of Mostashari to lead ONC.”

Joseph Conn of Modern Healthcare did an interview with Farzad Mostishari at the HIMSS11 conference in Orlando on February 21, 2011.Mary Mosquera, of Government Health IT, reported on April 8, 2011 that Mostashari “has been named the National Coordinator for Health IT, stepping in to the role at a critical juncture in the adoption of electronic health records and the meaningful use program. He has been the deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at the ONC.”

Mosquera, of Government Health IT also did a sidebar story April 8, 2011, on  “recent comments (from Mostashari that) offer snapshot of ONC leadership.”

Robert Lowes reported for Medscape on April 8, 2011 “New EHR Czar Understands Technology Roll-Out.”

Looking Back: Related Articles
Related NY Times article, Feb 28, 2009: “How to Make Electronic Medical Records a Reality”

Two articles co-authored by Mostashari in Health Affairs March/April 2009 edition on Electronic Health Records and HITECH:
“A Tale Of Two Large Community Electronic Health Record Extension Projects”
“Collecting And Sharing Data For Population Health: A New Paradigm”
Only abstracts may be available from Health Affairs without registration and payment.

Blumenthal’s Farewell Post: ONC’s Surprising FACAs

Dr. David Blumenthal Posts “ONC’s Surprising FACAs” on Health IT Buzz Blog
April 7, 2011, 3:25 pm / Written by Dr. David Blumenthal / National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
Republished by e-Healthcare Marketing below.

Dr. David BlumenthalI am often asked what has surprised me most during my tenure as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. There have been many surprises, but one thing clearly stands out: the extraordinary contributions of our Federal Advisory Committees (FACAs) and their many workgroups

I have served on, and been advised by, lots of volunteer committees in both the private and public sectors. Some have been helpful, some less so. But nothing prepared me for the magnificent way our Health Information Technology Policy Committee (HITPC) and Health Information Technology Standards Committee (HITSC) have performed, and the role they have played in implementing the HITECH Act. My hat’s off to the wise legislators who created these two statutory bodies under HITECH. And my deep thanks goes to the chairs and co-chairs of the committees, to the dedicated citizens and federal officials who have served on the FACAs and their workgroups over the last two years, as well as to Judy Sparrow, the ONC manager of our Federal Advisory Committees process.

As of the end of March, Judy had organized 368 meetings of the FACAs or their workgroups: the equivalent of a meeting every other day over a two-year period. Assuming three-hour meetings attended by 15 people (and many are longer and bigger), that amounts to more the 16,500 person hours of some of the most talented health information technology (HIT) experts in the country. The sheer volume of this work is extraordinary. But equally impressive have been their specific recommendations. These meetings have directly influenced numerous key policy decisions and regulations by the federal government. For example:

  1. The basic structure and content of the meaningful use rule: The HITPC and its Meaningful Use Workgroup suggested the five major health goals that provided the organizing framework for meaningful use; many of the specific objectives for meaningful use; and the idea of injecting flexibility into the meaningful use regime by creating a core set of objectives and a menu set from which providers could chose.
  2. The key standards that the Secretary adopted under the Interim Final Rule – setting  forth standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for electronic health records (EHRs): The HITSC generated these standards based on previous work performed by the Health IT Standards Panel.
  3. The structure of the certification process: The HITPC and its Adoption/Certification Workgroup proposed that the certification process be open and competitive, and that we create a streamlined temporary process quickly – to be followed by a more complicated permanent process – so as to get certified records into the market in time for the beginning of meaningful use. The federal government adopted all these recommendations.

Beyond these critical suggestions that have already influenced policy, the committees continue to generate wise, thought-provoking recommendations that ONC will carefully consider in the future. For example:

  1. The concept that patients should have “meaningful choice” regarding the uses of their personal health information: Bypassing the common controversy over whether patients should be able to “opt-in” or “opt-out” of the electronic exchange of their data, the HITPC and its Privacy and Security Tiger Team focused on the bottom line. Patients should have the information they need to make informed choices over how their data are managed. The Committee also laid out a definition of the term meaningful choice.
  2. The governance of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN): The HITPC and its Governance Workgroup recommended that in fulfilling the HITECH requirement to govern the NwHIN, ONC develop conditions of trust and interoperability that any organization must meet to participate in the federally sponsored Nationwide Health Information Network. The decision about whether to meet those conditions, and become a member of NwHIN, would be voluntary. Thus the NwHIN would have to prove its usefulness as a guarantor of the privacy and security of data and of effective interoperability – a very useful market test of the government’s NwHIN service.

ONC’s advisory groups have made and will continue to make many other contributions. All have taken shape in open meetings with opportunities for public comment. Indeed, in some ways, our FACAs have made policy development at ONC wiki-like – a ground up, participatory process in which the federal government has facilitated the work of a vast community of citizen experts.

This experience with the ONC FACAs raises the general question of why some federal advisory committees are more successful than others, but some key factors seem to have played a role. The HITECH legislation and the meaningful use framework gave the committees concrete deliverables and timelines. This made it easier to set priorities and push to consensus on numerous, complex, and potentially divisive issues. A second factor may have been the nature of the HIT community. Its members believe passionately in the value of information to make health and health care better, and they are ready to commit personal time and set aside personal agendas in service of creating a modern, electronic health information system for the United States.

Regardless of the reasons, the ONC FACAs have been a wonderful surprise. We could never have accomplished what we have without them. If HITECH reaches its potential, a lot of the credit will go to the hundreds of dedicated citizens who have contributed thousands of person-hours to make health care better for all Americans through HIT.

In the January 2011 Annual Meeting of eHealth Initiative in Washington, DC, this blogger had the privilege of asking Dr. Blumenthal  the first question after the National Coordinator delivered a keynote address. In short the question was “What’s most surprised you in your tenure as Coordinator?” Dr. Blumenthal paused for a moment, appearing to reflect, seemed to indicate it was the first time he had been asked the question, and he answered that the tremendous volunteer effort of the Health IT community in supporting the Office of the National Coordinator was the most surprising.

ONC at HIMSS11, Orlando Feb 20-23, 2011

Complete Listing of ONC Sessions and Materials Available at HIMSS11 Excerpted from ONC site Feb 20, 2011


The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is hosting its 11th annual conference in Orlando February 20 to 24, 2011. As in previous years, ONC is exhibiting and participating in a variety of events that include pre-conference symposia, educational sessions, and workshops.

Click here for this  information on the ONC site.

Schedule of Events
Time Location Subject
Sunday, February 20
8:45-9:15 a.m. Room 304A, Event ARRA2 Usability Symposium (The Strategic Importance of Usability in Obtaining Meaningful Use)
8:45-9:45 a.m Room 414A, Event PHY2 Physicians’ IT Symposium Keynote: Meaningful Use from ONC’s Perspective (Certification, Regulations, Certified Technology – A Discussion with ONC)
9:00-10:00 a.m. Room 304, Event HIE3 HIE Symposium: Federal Perspective Overview
10:00-11:00 a.m. Room 303C, Event SUD3 Secondary Use of Data Symposium (Legal and Ethical Considerations in the Secondary Use of Data)
2:30-3:30 p.m. Room 304E, Event HIE7 HIE Symposium: Financial Sustainability
Monday, February 21
9:45-10:45 a.m. Room 308A, Event #15 SHARP: Vendor Engagement with Federal Health IT Research Efforts
9:45-10:45 a.m. Room 330A, Event #18 Regional Extension Center (RECs) Townhall
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Room 330D, Event #38 Getting Clinical Decision Support Right: Best Practices and Perspectives from Quality Leaders and ONC
Tuesday, February 22
8:30-9:30 a.m. Room 308A, Event #72 ONC Standards & Implementation Framework Townhall
9:45-10:45 a.m. Room 330D, Event #95 Workforce Development Program
1:00-2:00 p.m. Room 330E, Event #115 Business Diversity Roundtable
1:00-2:00 pm Room 330D, Event #114 Regional Innovation Clusters: The Beacon Communities Example
2:15-3:45 p.m. Room 308A, Event #129 ONC Townhall
Wednesday, February 23
8:30-9:30 a.m. Valencia Ballroom Keynote: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Dr. David Blumenthal
9:45-10:45 a.m. Room 300, Event #145 Direct/CONNECT
1:00-2:00 p.m. Room 308 A-D, Event #168 Evolving NwHIN to Address Meaningful Use
2:15-3:15 p.m. Room 308 A-D, Event #187 Certification Townhall

Health IT Buzz Blog

Check out the Health IT Buzz Blog for the latest news and updates from ONC. Read the most recent posts on ONC’s participation at HIMSS and tell us about your experiences at this year’s conference!

ONC and CMS Exhibit


ONC-CMS Booth: Hall A, Booth #706

Exhibit Floor Map

Floor MapVisit the ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) booth located in Hall A, Booth #706 to learn more about nationwide health IT initiatives! The booth will feature information on various ONC programs and staff will be on hand to talk with attendees about the many innovative ways ONC is supporting the adoption of health information technology.

Stay connected to the latest health IT news and information from ONC by following us on YouTube and Twitter. ONC will be tweeting live from HIMSS! Follow the conversation – #HIMSS11 Exit Disclaimer and #ONC Exit Disclaimer.

NJ Health Information Technology Commission Meeting: Feb 3, 2011

February 3, 2011 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Location: Auditorium on the first floor of the Department of Health and Senior Services Building, 369 S. Warren St, Trenton, NJ.

1.Call to Order
2.Committee Reports and/or Review of Committee Scorecards
          a.Privacy and Security Committee (up to 40 minutes) – Committee Chair
                     i.Review of Report/Dashboard
                    ii.Announcement – new Co-Chairs
          b.Committee Membership status
3.Status on State HIT Operational Plan
         a.Recent $11.4 million ONC awards and immediate next steps – (15 minutes) – Colleen Woods
         b.Project Management assistance – Colleen Woods
4.New and Unfinished Business
         a.Dialogue with Constituencies (10 min) – Al Campanella
         b.Promotion of e-Prescribing (5 min) – Colleen Woods
         c.Vision of the Innovation Center (5 min) – Colleen Woods
5.Housekeeping Items
         a.File-Sharing Website (5 min) – Al Campanella
         b.Update on Public NJ HIT Commission Website – Colleen Woods
6.Public Comment Period

Documents from January 2011 NJ HIT Commission Meeting
Alfred Campanella, Chair NJ HIT Commission: Chair’s Reflections and Direction. January 2011 [pdf 358k]
Colleen Woods, NJ Statewide HIT Coordinator: Presentation to HIT Commission, January 2011 [ppt 275k]

ONC announces launch of “Direct Project” pilots via Press Release and Blumenthal/Chopra Blog Post

‘Open Government’ process yields rapid drive toward early exchange of electronic health information
HHS Press Release: 2/2/2011

Blumenthal and Chopra Blog post from ONC’s Health IT Buzz blog comes after press release
Additional articles: NY Times, Govt Health IT, and Project Direct blog

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced today that providers and public health agencies in Minnesota and Rhode Island began this month exchanging health information using specifications developed by the Direct Project, an ‘open government’ initiative that calls on cooperative efforts by organizations in the health care and information technology sectors.  Other Direct Project pilot programs will also be launched soon in New York, Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and California to demonstrate the effectiveness of the streamlined Direct Project approach, which supports information exchange for core elements of patient care and public health reporting.

The launch of the pilot demonstrations, less than a year from the inception of the Direct Project, shows the project is on track to give U.S. health care providers early access to an easy-to-use, internet-based tool that can replace mail and fax transmissions of patient data with secure and efficient electronic health information exchange.

“This is an important milestone in our journey to achieve secure health information exchange, and it means that health care providers large and small will have an early option for electronic exchange of information supporting their most basic and frequently-needed uses,” said Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology.  “Other efforts are also going forward at full-throttle to build a comprehensive structure of health information exchange.  But by bringing together health care and IT companies, including competitors, to rapidly produce a system that supports basic clinical delivery and public health needs, we will be able to more quickly start building electronic information exchange into our health care system.”

Designed as part of President Obama’s ‘open government’ initiative to drive rapid innovation, the Direct Project last year brought together some 200 participants from more than 60 companies and other organizations.  The volunteers worked together to assemble consensus standards that support secure exchange of basic clinical information and public health data.  Now, pilot testing of information exchange based on Direct Project specifications is being carried out on schedule this year, aiming toward formal adoption of the standards and wide availability for providers by 2012.

“This is a new approach to public sector leadership, and it works,” said Aneesh Chopra, the United States Chief Technology Officer.  “Instead of depending on a traditional top-down approach, stakeholders worked together to develop an open, standardized platform that dramatically lowers costs and barriers to secure health information exchange. The Direct Project is a great example of how government can work as a convener to catalyze new ideas and business models through collaboration.”

The two pilot programs that have already begun using Direct Project-based information exchange are in Minnesota and Rhode Island:

Since mid-January, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), Minnesota’s premier Level 1 Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center, has been successfully sending immunization records to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). “This demonstrates the success that is possible through public-private collaborations,” said James Golden, PhD, Minnesota’s state HIT coordinator. “This is an important milestone for Minnesota and a key step toward the seamless electronic movement of information to improve care and public health.”

Recognizing Minnesota’s leadership in delivering high-quality, cost-effective healthcare, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said, “this is the type of innovation that can help strengthen our health care system by reducing waste and improving quality. We need to continue to improve our health care system by continuing to integrate information technology to better serve patients and providers.”

The second pilot implementation site, The Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI), has delivered a pilot project with two primary goals. First, RIQI is improving patient care when patients are referred to specialists by demonstrating simple, direct provider-to-provider data. Second, RIQI is leveraging Direct Project messaging as a means to securely feed clinical information, with patient consent from practice-based EHRs to the state-wide HIE, currentcare, to improve quality by detecting gaps in care and making sure the full record is available to all care providers.

Discussing RIQI’s collaborative approach to health IT, Laura Adams, president and CEO of RIQI said, “All too often, providers do not have the data they need to take the best care of patients they serve. Direct Project allows the Quality Institute to be on the cutting edge – providing health information exchange via currentcare, delivering the efficient rollout of technology through the Regional Extension Center, and enabling and measuring real patient outcome improvements in our Beacon Community. The ability to bring together and drive consensus among a diverse set of stakeholders has been critical in the successful rollout of these innovative programs.”

“Rhode Island continues to be a nationwide leader in improving health care with better information technology,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). “Health care providers communicating with each other in a secure and cost-efficient way helps patients get better sooner with less hassle and confusion.”

Other pilot projects to be launched this year include a Tennessee effort with the Veteran’s Administration, local hospitals and CareSpark to provide care to veterans and their families; a New York effort including clinicians in hospital and ambulatory care settings with MedAllies and EHR vendors; a Connecticut effort involving patients, hospitals, ambulatory care settings and a Federally Qualified Health Center with Medical Professional Services, a PHR, and a major reference laboratory; an expansion of the VisionShare immunization data pilot to Oklahoma; a California rural care effort involving patients, hospitals and ambulatory care settings with Redwood MedNet; and an effort in South Texas with a collaboration of hospitals, ambulatory care settings, public health, and community health organizations to improve care to mothers with gestational diabetes and their newborns.

The Direct Project was launched in March 2010 as a part of the Nationwide Health Information Network, to specify a simple, secure, scalable, standards-based way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet in support of Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements.  Participants include EHR and PHR vendors, medical organizations, systems integrators, integrated delivery networks, federal organizations, state and regional health information organizations, organizations that provide health information exchange capabilities, and health information technology consultants.

Information transfers supported by Direct Project specifications address core needs, including standardized exchange of laboratory results; physician-to-physician transfers of summary patient records; transmission of data from physicians to hospitals for patient admission; transmission of hospital discharge data back to physicians; and transmission of information to public health agencies.  In addition to representing most-needed information transfers for clinicians and hospitals, these information exchange capabilities will also support providers in meeting “meaningful use” objectives established last year by HHS, and will thus support providers in qualifying for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments in their use of electronic health records.  The Direct Project specifications can also support physician-to-patient information transfers, and Microsoft Corp. today announced an application for that purpose based on Direct Project standards. For more information about the Direct Project, please visit

Other ongoing efforts supported by ONC are underway to bring about a comprehensive health information structure in the U.S.  These include technical and governance issues that are being addressed under the Nationwide Health Information Network, which embodies the standards, services and policies that enable health information exchange over the internet.  The Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange is already supporting some health information exchange between federal agencies and the private sector.  In addition, ONC provides grants to states to develop locally-appropriate policies and standards for health information exchange that are consonant with broader national standards.

For more information about the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, please visit

Direct Project Pilot Programs Launched
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 | Posted by: Dr. David Blumenthal and Aneesh Chopra U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director for Technology White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on ONC’s Health IT Buzz blog and reposted here by e-Healthcare Marketing.

Today we celebrated another milestone on the Nation’s journey to better health care through the use of electronic health records and health information technology. We launched two pilot projects – one in Minnesota and the other in Rhode Island – for easily and securely transmitting personal health information via the Internet. These efforts – combined with others that will soon be underway in New York, Connecticut, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, and California – mean we’re on schedule with a very important new tool that will soon enable health care providers to safely transmit patient data over the Internet, instead of relying on mail and fax. This is a significant step toward meeting ONC’s commitment to make health information exchange (HIE) accessible and practical for all the nation’s clinicians.

HIE is one of the primary benefits that can be derived from adopting health information technology. HIE means your records can be shared among your doctors, without getting lost or delayed. It means your hospital discharge instructions can be provided instantly to your physician – and to you. It means that if you are in an accident and arrive in the ER unconscious, your record can be made available, and the care you receive can be that much safer and more effective.

Since last year, HHS has been supporting a new initiative, the Direct Project, to provide an early, practical option for health information exchange. Even while other work goes on to build a more complete HIE infrastructure, Direct aimed at rapidly developing a system that providers could use soon, to support the simpler information exchange functions that they need the most.

This project started only 10 months ago, in March 2010. Now, the launch of pilot programs means that we’re on schedule to take it live, and make safe, Internet-based transfers of most-used health information a reality in the United States. That will enable existing electronic exchanges to become more standardized and convenient. And it will enable many more providers, and many more data transactions, to take advantage of the HIE benefit.

How was this fast-paced development achieved? Actually, by adopting some lessons from the IT sector itself. We set aside the “top down” approach that’s traditional for government. Instead we invited private companies (including some well-known competitors!) and public sector entities to work together, on a volunteer basis, to respond to the need for a leading-edge HIE option. Here was the challenge: Give us an easy-to-use tool, with consensus specifications, that will support HIE for the most common clinical information needs – and deliver a useable result for providers in less than two years.

And it’s working. Employing the principles and practice of “open government,” as championed by the President, these different stakeholders worked together and delivered a product, which is now in its testing phase. These same stakeholders will go out, we hope, and develop competing products based on the very standards they worked together to assemble!

It’s time for new ways of achieving the public good. The national push to health information technology is one new horizon. And the “open government” principles that today are delivering an entry-level HIE system, ahead of schedule, are yet another.

It is indeed a milestone worth celebrating.
For comments on Blumenthal/Chopra blog post, go directly to ONC’s Health IT Buzz blog.

Press Roundup
Steve Lohr of New York Times describes in February 2, 2011 Bits blog post how ONC took a  “page from the open-source model of collaboration” to develop the Direct Project, formerly called NHIN Direct.

In Government Health IT on February 2, 2011, Mary Mosquera reported that a  “total of 29 health IT vendors say they plan to connect using Direct’s standards and specifications.”

Arien Malec, director for the Direct Project, wrote his own blog post with initial reporting on the breadth of the project and a go-live event held in Washington, DC on February 2, 2011.

Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Health Solutions Group, announced in his Neupert on Health blog on February 2, 2011 ”that next week we will be launching new functionality that wires every Microsoft HealthVault account to use online encrypted patient e-mail based on Direct Project security protocols. To start with, we will enable physicians to transmit a copy of a patient’s clinical information to a new email address created within HealthVault.”

Blumenthal Letter #24: Our Journey Continues: $80 Million in Add’l Funds to RECs, 8 HIEs, and Community Colleges

Our Journey Continues…
January 27, 2011 (accessed 1/27/2011 from ONC site)

With the new year, we are turning the page to a next chapter in our journey to adoption and meaningful use of health information technology (HIT). As we begin this chapter, ONC is accelerating progress with new funding for programs vital to our goals.

No doubt the “star player” in 2011 is the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs. As of this year, providers can begin qualifying for significant payments through Medicare and Medicaid, as they achieve meaningful use objectives.

But equally important are the “supporting players.” These are the programs created under the HITECH Act to help providers adopt and achieve meaningful use of EHRs through technical assistance, through information exchange, and through development of a new workforce of HIT specialists.

These supporting programs all started last year, and they’ve had a successful launch:

  • We funded 62 Regional Extension Centers (RECs) across the nation to provide technical assistance, especially for smaller practice primary care providers, rural hospitals and other settings which serve the underserved. We want the RECs to assist at least 100,000 primary care providers. And already, some 38,000 primary care providers have enrolled for REC assistance.
  • We created a state grant program to support health information exchange (HIE) and facilitate all the potential uses and benefits of secure information sharing. Already, approved HIE implementation plans are in place in 25 states.
  • We funded 84 community colleges to train HIT specialists that will help to meet the anticipated national shortage of 50,000. The first 3,400 students will graduate by May, 2011 – and with excellent job prospects.

This month we are adding new funding for these important initiatives:

For the RECs, we are providing additional funding of $32 million. This especially reflects our plan to accelerate outreach to health care providers to encourage registration for the CMS Incentive Programs and to provide more support in the field as providers adopt health information technology in their practices. We recognize that the early transition to HIT can be challenging and we want to make sure that our RECs are fully operational to help make this transition as smooth as possible. We are committed to offer substantial ongoing support to achieve meaningful use through the RECs.

For HIE, we are providing $16 million in new Challenge Grants to encourage breakthrough innovations for health information exchange that can be leveraged widely to support nationwide health information exchange and interoperability. The HIE Challenge Grant Program is providing 10 awards of between $1 and $2 million to State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program grantees, to develop innovative and scalable solutions in five key areas: achieving specific health goals, improving care transitions, consumer-mediated information exchange, enhanced querying for patient care, and fostering distributed population-level analytics.

For community colleges, $32 million in second year funding is being provided to continue academic HIT programs training the specialists needed to make rapid adoption and meaningful use possible. We remain on track to ramp up and graduate an estimated 10,500 students a year through our community college programs.

In playing their part for HIT adoption and meaningful use, every awardee in our supporting programs is a star! Awardees and funding amounts for these programs can be found at

Warmest Regards,
David Blumenthal, MD, MPP
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) encourages you to share this information as we work together to enhance the quality, safety and value of care and the health of all Americans through the use of electronic health records and health information technology.

For more information and to receive regular updates from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, please subscribe to our Health IT News list.

See list of newly awarded challenge grants to state HIEs on e-Healthcare Marketing.

ONC Awards 10 Challenge Grants to 8 State HIEs: Totals $16 Million

Health Information Exchange Challenge Grant Program
Excerpted from ONC site on 1/27/2011.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has awarded $16 million in new Challenge Grants to encourage breakthrough innovations for health information exchange that can be leveraged widely to support nationwide health information exchange and interoperability.
The Health Information Exchange (HIE) Challenge Grant Program is providing 10 awards between $1 and $2 million to State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program grantees to develop innovative and scalable solutions in five key areas:

  1. Achieving health goals through health information exchange
  2. Improving long-term and post-acute care transitions
  3. Consumer-mediated information exchange
  4. Enabling enhanced query for patient care
  5. Fostering distributed population-level analytics
The ONC-funded State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program promotes secure exchange of health information to enable patient-centered care and providers’ achievement of meaningful use requirements.
State/SDE Previous Award Amount Amount Awarded
January 2011
Colorado Regional Health Information Organization $9,175,777 $1,718,783


Georgia Department of Community Health $13,003,003 $1,686,989


Indiana Health Information Technology, Inc. $10,300,000 $1,718,439


Indiana Health Information Technology, Inc. $1,267,970


Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation $10,599,719 $1,717,610


Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation $1,675,019


Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene $9,313,924 $1,683,171


HealthShare Montana $5,767,926 $1,400,802


NC Dept of State Treasurer $12,950,860 $1,708,693


Oklahoma Health Care Authrity $8,883,741 $1,719,086


TOTAL $79,994,950 $16,296,562

Learn more about the funding opportunity for this important initiative.

CMS Produces EHR Registration Video for Eligible Professionals

CMS Video Provides Step-by-Step Registration Guidance for Eligible Professionals for the EHR Incentives Program

CMS Video for EP Registration
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has produced an 11-minute step-by-step video tutorial for registration for the EHR Incentive Payments Programs for Eligible Professionals.

Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program Webinar Video for Eligible Professionals [44.2MB - WMV] -
Per CMS “This tutorial video will provide Eligible Professionals with a step-by-step guide to help ensure the registration process is a success.” This may take several minutes to download. Clicking on the title immediately above or the photo will start downloading the video.

A transcript of this webinar is available [PDF] .

Register for the Medicare and/or Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs

Below are step-by-step PDF guides to help you register for EHR Incentive Programs. Choose the guide that fits your needs:

Medicaid EHR Incentives Registration for Eligible Professionals opened in the following states on January 3, 2011: