New Orleans 'beacon' ramps up health IT for 18 practices

PCDC in the News, Government Health IT, February 6, 2012

The Crescent City Beacon Community will get assistance to strengthen the New Orleans healthcare infrastructure and health IT to improve care coordination and population health in 18 participating practices, including community health centers.

The Primary Care Development Corp. (PCDC) of New York, which offers practice redesign and training to healthcare providers who treat medically underserved patients, will introduce health IT tools and train clinical and administrative staff for the beacon partners, which serve 50,000 patients.

The training will concentrate on classifying the health risks of patients, creating disease registries, developing care management protocols, using care teams to manage patients with chronic diseases and adopting clinical decision support systems, said Anjum Khurshid, director of the New Orleans Beacon http://www.crescentcitybeacon.org at the Louisiana Public Health Institute.

"Since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the community has made tremendous progress in rebuilding the healthcare infrastructure, including significant investments in health IT and achieving high concentrations of medical home practices," she said in a Feb. 6 statement.

This partnership is a chance to create “a national model for regional primary care transformation that demonstrates measurable results for patients, practices and the healthcare system,” she added.

The Crescent City Beacon Community is one of 17 communities selected and funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT over three years to improve the quality of health services for populations suffering from diabetes, heart and other chronic diseases.

The Louisiana Public Health Institute coordinates the activities in the community with an aim to better manage chronic disease care through patient-centered medical homes and improve transitions of care between hospitals and primary care practices, both of which health IT enables.

The New Orleans beacon community last month launched Txt4health, a mobile health information service designed to help people understand their risk for type 2 diabetes and become more informed about the steps they can take to lead healthy lives. Individuals who sign up for txt4health will receive SMS text messages each week with timely, relevant information to help them improve and manage their health.

The Louisiana Public Institute also said that it will fund 17 of the beacon clinic and hospital partners to develop and put in place quality improvements that may be unique to their circumstances while still linked to the overall beacon interventions and goals.

Local beacon partners include the Interim Louisiana State University Public Hospital, Ochsner Health System, Tulane Medical Center, community health centers and metro New Orleans school-based health centers, Children's Hospital and Touro Infirmary.

The Crescent City Beacon Community also works with the state's health information exchange and regional health IT extension center initiatives, both which are ONC programs, and which are led by the Louisiana Healthcare Quality Forum. In addition, BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana provides an important link to regional quality incentive programs, Khurshid said.

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