Hawai‘i Island Beacon Community Achieves Standout Health Care Improvements on the Big Island

84 Percent of Primary Care Physicians Now Using Certified Electronic Health Records

Three years after entering into a $16.1 million cooperative agreement with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the Hawai‘i Island Beacon Community (HIBC) reports significant achievements in the use of innovative technology to improve the quality of patient care in Hawai‘i 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 health care resources – HIBC is making improvements toward better health, better care and lower costs.

Beacon CommunityAccording to HIBC’s database, 84 percent of primary care providers have adopted certified electronic health records (EHR) in Hawai‘i 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 (HIE) on Hawai‘i Island. The North Hawai‘i HIE connects a variety of clinical data sources to the Alere Accountable Care Services platform. Staff at North Hawai‘i Community Hospital and physicians practicing in North Hawai‘i can now access the same data and share information through a secure messaging system for more efficient clinical decision making and communication.

“These achievements have laid the foundation for readiness to operate in a changing health care environment,” said Susan B. Hunt, M.H.A., project director and CEO of HIBC. “Our providers on Hawai‘i Island are among the nation’s early adopters of best practices in health IT supported care delivery transformation. According to SK&A Research, close to 40 percent of our primary care providers have achieved Stage 1 Meaningful Use of their EHRs. We have made a remarkable journey in three years. Thanks to the commitment of local leaders, our health care system IT infrastructure is steadily advancing.”

Primary care practices are proactively managing the health of their patient populations by using EHRs and other forms of health IT to implement quality improvement activities, engage patients in care decisions and improve efficiency in coordinating care and services. Nineteen primary care practices serving approximately 20,000 patients achieved Patient Centered Medical Home status. To achieve this status, they completed a 12-month training program offered through TransforMED, a subsidiary of the American Academy of Family Physicians and were supported in this effort through the partnership of HIBC, the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii and the Hawai‘i Medical Service Association (HMSA).

HIBC is reducing barriers to care caused by geography and provider shortages by bringing telehealth technology to physicians’ offices and patients’ homes through partnerships with the Retina Institute of Hawaii and Hawaii Island Care Coordination Services. Advanced retinal screening devices and the cutting-edge iHealthHome® system have enabled more frequent monitoring and/or screening of patients for chronic disease management and intervention.

More than 500 patients with complex care needs enrolled in HIBC’s Care Coordination and Care Transitions initiatives throughout Hawai‘i 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’s partners in this effort include Bay Clinic, Hamakua Health Center, West Hawaii Community Health Center, Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital, North Hawaii Community Hospital, the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii, Hui Mālama Ola Nā ‘Ōiwi, and Hawaii Island Care Coordination Services.

In addition, HIBC’s Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) program – endorsed by the Office of the Mayor for the County of Hawai‘i – funded community-based wellness projects for approximately 2,000 island residents.

“HIBC has done a tremendous job in bringing key stakeholders to the table,” said Sharon Vitousek, M.D., board president for HIBC. “Island-wide collaboration, partnerships between providers and community organizations, and showcasing Hawai‘i 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 health care system today and in the long run.”

HIBC’s federal cooperative agreement officially ends on Sept. 30, 2013. However, a great deal of interest remains in continuing the work that has been started by the participants in the project. HIBC stakeholders have committed to continuing to collaborate on further health care improvements for Hawai‘i Island.

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