Three years after entering into a $16.1 million cooperative agreement with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Hawaiʻi Island Beacon Community (HIBC) reports significant achievements in the use of innovative technology to improve the quality of patient care in Hawaiʻi County. As one of the most rural and geographically isolated of the 17 Beacon communities and in the face of unique challenges—geographic distances, diverse populations, and limited healthcare resources—HIBC is making improvements toward better health, better care and lower costs.
HIBC is under the leadership of UH Hilo Professor and Principal Investigator Daniel Brown and Project Director Susan B. Hunt.
According to HIBC’s database, 84 percent of primary care providers have adopted certified electronic health records (EHR) in Hawaiʻi County. Use of certified EHRs qualify primary care providers on the island for financial incentives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid through achievement of the first stage of Meaningful Use of their EHR software.
HIBC facilitated the first functioning regional health information exchange on Hawaiʻi Island. Staff at North Hawaiʻi Community Hospital and physicians practicing in North Hawaiʻi can now access the same data and share information through a secure messaging system for more efficient clinical decision making and communication. HIBC is also reducing barriers to care caused by geography and provider shortages by bringing telehealth technology to physicians’ offices and patients’ homes.
“These achievements have laid the foundation for readiness to operate in a changing healthcare environment,” said Hunt. “Our providers on Hawaiʻi Island are among the nation’s early adopters of best practices in health IT supported care delivery transformation.”
More than 500 patients with complex care needs are enrolled in HIBC’s Care Coordination and Care Transitions initiatives throughout Hawaiʻi County, including Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations at greater risk for chronic illness. The initiatives involved programs that test new ways to manage these illnesses. Through innovative and culturally appropriate approaches to care, these patients have made significant improvements in controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.
“HIBC has done a tremendous job in bringing key stakeholders to the table,” said Sharon Vitousek, board president for HIBC. “Island-wide collaboration, partnerships between providers and community organizations, and showcasing Hawaiʻi Island as an innovator on a national level—it’s something to be proud of and we have laid a solid foundation for a better healthcare system today and in the long run.”
To learn more about HIBC and their initiatives, please visit their website.
—Adapted from a HIBC news release