• doctor and nurse
< Back

News > Greater New Orleans Chosen as Federal Health IT Pilot Community

Greater New Orleans Chosen as Federal Health IT Pilot Community - LPHI Selected to Coordinate Grant Effort
May 7, 2010

Vice President Biden and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have announced that the Greater New Orleans area was selected to serve as a pilot community for the eventual wide-scale use of health information technology through HHS’s Office of the Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s Beacon Community program.  The $13,525,434 Recovery Act grant, awarded to the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI), will not only help achieve meaningful and measurable improvements in health care quality, safety and efficiency in the Greater New Orleans area, but it will also help lay the groundwork for an emerging health IT industry that is expected to support tens of thousands of jobs nationwide.

The Greater New Orleans area is one of only 15 communities across the U.S. chosen for this honor. Locally, the project will be referred to as the Crescent City Beacon Community (CCBC). Local partners in the CCBC effort include statewide hospital providers including Ochsner Health System, Tulane Medical Center, Interim Louisiana State University Public Hospital (ILH), 504HealthNet (a shared services organization of neighborhood clinic providers), and metro New Orleans school-based health centers.

The focus of the Crescent City Beacon Community is to reduce racial health disparities and improve control of diabetes and smoking cessation rates by linking technically isolated health systems, providers, and hospitals and to empower patients by increasing their access to patient health records. The initiative seeks to build on existing health IT infrastructure and related systems in the parishes of Orleans and Jefferson with an aggregate population of 790,276.

“These pioneering communities are going to lead the way in bringing smarter, lower-cost health care to all Americans through use of electronic health records.  Because of their early efforts, doctors across the country will one day be able to coordinate patient care with the stroke of a key or pull up life-saving health information instantly in an emergency – and for the residents of these communities, that future is about to become a reality,” said Vice President Biden.  “Thanks to the Recovery Act’s historic investment in health IT, we’re not only advancing the way health care is delivered in this country, we’re also building a whole new industry along with it – one that will shape our 21st Century economy for generations to come and employ tens of thousands of American workers.”

"We are very grateful to be selected as one of the 15 Beacon Communities. We feel this funding is essential to the ongoing rebuilding efforts of Greater New Orleans, in particular its health care system. Our proposal, consisting of diverse public and private partnerships, will hopefully become a model for other cities across the country,” said Gaurav Nagrath, MBA, Chief Information Officer for the Louisiana Public Health Institute and lead project officer for the federal grant.

Selected Beacon Communities will also be expected to access existing federal programs that are working to promote health information exchange at the community level.  To capitalize on this opportunity, LPHI intends to work in close partnership with the Louisiana Regional Extension Center program, Health Information Exchange program, and the National Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC), which will ensure lessons learned are shared and used as a roadmap for future health IT communities.  Over time, LPHI and its partners will work to leverage other federal programs and resources that are working to promote health information exchange at the community level, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ development of a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) for all active duty, Guard and Reserve, retired military personnel, and eligible separated Veterans. 

Since the 2005 Katrina disaster, the New Orleans region has been diligently rebuilding and improving its health sector, with notable success. The Beacon Community program will help to bridge the gap between those residents with access to more systematic, quality patient care provided by larger health systems and those who access primary care primarily through neighborhood and community clinics. Health Information Exchange will be used to electronically connect providers serving residents throughout the region. Personal Health Records, performance measurement and feedback, patient engagement and quality improvement methodologies are all key components of the transformation underway in this community.

The award is part of an overall $100 billion federal government investment in science, innovation and technology the Obama Administration is making through the Recovery Act to spur domestic job creation in emerging industries and create a long-term foundation for economic growth.  The program was significantly oversubscribed with over 130 applications submitted for the initial 15 awards.  These Beacon Community grants are part of the $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.  An additional $30 million is currently available to fund additional Beacon Community cooperative agreement awards. An announcement to apply will be made in the near future.   

More information about Beacon Communities can be found at: http://Healthit.hhs.gov/Programs/Beacon.