Michigan Beacon Grant Targets Diabetes Tracking

June 17, 2013
A Beacon grant winner in Michigan says that its initial focus on diabetes management will lay the technology groundwork for other quality improvement projects. On Sept. 2, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded the Southeast Michigan Beacon Community Collaborative a $16.2 million grant to accelerate its efforts to use health information technology to prevent and better manage diabetes, which affects 12.8 percent of adults in the Detroit region.

A Beacon grant winner in Michigan says that its initial focus on diabetes management will lay the technology groundwork for other quality improvement projects.

On Sept. 2, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded the Southeast Michigan Beacon Community Collaborative a $16.2 million grant to accelerate its efforts to use health information technology to prevent and better manage diabetes, which affects 12.8 percent of adults in the Detroit region.

Robert Jackson, M.D., chairman of the Southeast Michigan Health Information Exchange (SEMHIE), tells Healthcare Informatics that the grant funding will allow the Beacon organization to build registry functions to provide feedback to primary care physicians in the area. “We will be able to get them data from all the labs and hospitals in the area,” he says. “Even the ones who don’t have EHRs [electronic health records] themselves will be able to get that information by fax.”

Surveys have found that about 40 percent of primary care physicians in Southeast Michigan currently use EHRs, he says. All the local hospitals have adopted electronic records, he adds.

“This will allow us to do a better job of tracking diabetic patients and give feedback to physicians on what they need to do to improve care for this group,” Dr. Jackson says. One goal is to overcome the fragmentation of care delivery by linking patients with primary care providers to improve patient self-management, reduce avoidable hospitalization and emergency care use. “We will be able to engage the physicians and the patients with data.”

The Beacon consortium, led by SEMHIE and its partner organization, the Southeastern Michigan Health Association, includes six major health systems, payers, employers, providers, quality organizations, safety-net providers and healthcare professional associations.

Jackson says more than 100 people were involved in writing the Beacon grant and that groups of hospital IT leaders and clinicians are now convening to gather baseline data and determine which aspects of the project to tackle first.

The Beacon grant will help SEMHIE build on its previous work developing a business plan and governance structure. The federal money will be matched by an additional $25 million from the Southeast Michigan Beacon Community Collaborative partners. In February SEMHIE also received a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to work on e-disability claims. It has a $3 million contract to transfer medical records electronically from two health systems to the SSA.

Jackson says that what is most exciting about the project being set up for diabetes tracking is that it will create an infrastructure that can be used to help track and improve care for other conditions such as congestive heart failure. “As we achieve cost savings,” he says, “we can leverage that and health plan incentives to expand what we do.”

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