The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcement that Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems in Brewer will receive a $12,749,740 “Beacon Community” investment. The grant, which was made possible through the Recovery Act, will be used to expand community connectivity, including long-term care, primary care and specialist providers, to the existing Health Information Exchange and promote the use of telemedicine and patient self-management in order to improve care for elderly patients and individuals needing long-term or home care.
“This investment will enable Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems to take another step forward in advancing innovative approaches that will improve the way health care services are delivered in Maine,” said Congressman Mike Michaud, who sent a letter in support of the project in January. “This initiative will put our state even further ahead when it comes to our health IT infrastructure.”
EMHS president and CEO, M. Michelle Hood, FACHE, said the funds will allow EMHS to build on their solid foundation of collaboration and innovation throughout the northeast, and will be especially helpful in their ability to connect smaller hospitals and other health providers in greater Bangor to technology that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Hood added that, “advancing the adoption of electronic health records and expanding connection to Maine’s statewide health information exchange will benefit a range of health providers that ultimately will make our health care delivery system more cost efficient and improve care for patients, especially those with chronic disease.”
“EMHS has already invested heavily in research and health care information technology, and we are eager to help advance both in Maine,” said Hood. She also credited the many collaborators who helped to develop the program and expressed great enthusiasm for getting started.
According to HHS, eastern Maine is one of only fifteen communities across the country to serve as a pilot community for eventual wide-scale use of health information technology through the Beacon Communities program. The $220 million in Recovery Act awards will not only help achieve meaningful and measurable improvements in health care quality, safety and efficiency in the selected communities, but also help lay the groundwork for an emerging health IT industry that is expected to support tens of thousands of jobs.
The selected Beacon Communities will use health IT resources within their community as a foundation for bringing doctors, hospitals, community health programs, federal programs and patients together to design new ways of improving quality and efficiency to benefit patients and taxpayers. Each Beacon Community has elected specific and measurable improvement goals in each of three vital areas for health systems improvement: quality, cost-efficiency, and population health. The goals vary according to the needs and priorities of each community.
Today’s awards are part of a $2 billion effort to achieve widespread meaningful use of health IT and provide for the use of an electronic health record (EHR) for each person in the United States by 2014.