NY Beacon sees progress despite pitfalls
August 27, 2013 in Medical Technology
This week, Healthcare IT News is spotlighting three of the 17 federally-funded Beacon Communities, as the $250 million project draws to a close. We asked them to look back on their accomplishments over the past three years and offer their thoughts about the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead as self-sustaining entities. Today, we profile the Western New York Beacon Community. Read Editor Bernie Monegain’s introduction to the series here.
Three years after procuring a $16.1 million HHS grant to bolster local health IT initiatives and diabetic care management, the Western New York Beacon Community has chronicled mixed success – at least in the quantifiable sense. Anecdotally, however, its success becomes much more striking, officials say.
Nevertheless, the numbers do talk, says Dan Porreca, executive director of HEALTHeLINK – the health information exchange spearheading the Beacon project. WNY Beacon has forged partnerships with heavy hitters such as the Veterans Administration and Blue Cross Blue Shield, and has already helped 82 of 98 area practices develop, manage and participate in EHR-based patient registries, which represent data on more than 57,000 diabetic patients. To date, more than half a million patients have given their consent to have their data accessed.
Moreover, 325,000 patient queries from providers occurred in 2012, representing an explosive 197 percent increase from 2011. Now, Porreca says they’re tracking a whopping 50,000 queries per month. Those, one might say, are numbers to write home about.
“Being able to analyze the registry data from a specific practice and compare it to the other 81 practices that we were getting the data from,” Porreca explained, “shows a practice where they stack up,” – and oftentimes that’s all it takes.
After participating in the registry, Southtowns Family Practice in Hamburg, N.Y., for example, learned their vaccination rates for diabetic patients were only 27 percent.
The practice initiated intervention efforts after seeing the numbers, including adding a vaccine alert to specific patients’ EMR. Within the first quarter, the practice’s pneumonia vaccination rate increased to 47 percent. By the third quarter it had reached 67 percent.
The Beacon’s telemonitoring initiatives also deserve a mention, says Porreca. The pilot enrolled more than 100 high-risk diabetic patients to use telemonitoring for improved care management. “The objective was to try to identify these patients before they were hospitalized and put devices in their home to help their care coordinators and primary care physicians better manage their care,” said Porreca.
Kenneth Wilson was one of these patients. He had been living with uncontrolled diabetes for more than 10 years, so when he enrolled and had to log into the program each day and measure his weight, blood pressure and blood glucose levels, he eventually saw some big changes.