Beacon Collaboration shines on region's health IT innovations

The Cincinnati region is furthering its reputation as trailblazer in Health IT through the ongoing Cincinnati Beacon Collaboration. The 30-month initiative, which includes major Cincinnati institutions, was spurred by a $15 million federal grant going to cities that showed leadership in the emerging industry.

The Cincinnati Beacon Collaboration aims to improve the automation and sharing of electronic healthcare information between hospitals and other medical providers. It builds on the work already taking place in Cincinnati, most notably through Blue Ash-based HealthBridge, one of the country's largest electronic health information exchange organizations. The nonprofit serves 80 to 90 percent of physicians and acute care hospitals in southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana.

HealthBridge is among the partners in the Collaboration, along with the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Greater Cincinnati Health Council and the Health Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati.

Cincinnati is one of 17 Beacon communities across the nation serving as real-life examples of how medical providers can best automate, control and share sensitive and important patient information.

"The medical industry hasn't invested in health IT the way at other industries have," says Keith Hepp, interim CEO for HealthBridge. "(The federal government) looked at communities that have invested substantially in healthcare IT, and in our case awarded us 15 million to serve as demonstration project, and as beacon to other communities."

The initiative precedes a federal mandate that a national health infrastructure, which would include e-health records, be in place by 2014. Among practical goals of e-health records is to shave health costs, lower errors, and improve healthcare outcomes through more preventative medicine.

In the collaborative started in Sept. 2010 and partners are working to address these issues in the area of pediatric asthma, and adult diabetes. The plan is to then expand into other diseases and bring in more medical providers.

By Feoshia Henderson

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