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About Delta Blues Beacon

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BEACON was a major federal grant program that DHA administered over the last five years that provided funding to build and strengthen health care systems (1) using nationally recognized best practices in direct patient care and (2) supporting and enhancing those practices with health information technology. DHA was a recipient of one of the seventeen Beacon grants awarded nationally in 2010. The U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) provided us with $14.6 million to implement the grant, which DHA called the
Delta Better Living Utilizing Electronic Systems (BLUES) project.

Delta Health Alliance’s specific goal was to demonstrate new and innovative ways to improve the health care of people with diabetes while lowering the cost of that care. Here is what was learned from the Delta BLUES Beacon project:

• By investing a modest amount of money in paying for a health coach at a local hospital or a pharmacist working directly in a local clinic, we can save five to ten times that investment by helping a patient apply complex medication protocols or understand necessary follow up treatment after a hospital discharge. This has become the new Delta Care Transitions project, as described on page 16 of this report.

• By utilizing information technology, doctors are given more time with patients and more tools to diagnose and treat their patients.

• People with diabetes can enjoy a healthier life, at a lower cost to the overall health care system, if they are treated comprehensively and regularly. Targeted interventions can improve the health of chronically ill patients, improve a region’s overall health, and reduce its overall
cost of care.

• Because Electronic Health Records and Health Information Exchanges can organize and display massive amounts of data and can help providers communicate securely in real time, these systems have the ability to create foundations for new models of health care delivery.

• By using non-traditional assessments, such as eye exams and foot exams, health care providers can detect early stages of diabetes, which is less expensive to treat and is more likely to prevent more serious complications from developing.

The focus of the Delta BLUES Beacon project was on improving outcomes for diabetic patients and using innovative technologies and clinical interventions to improve management of this debilitating chronic disease. This Delta Health Alliance project brought physicians, nurses, hospitals, clinics, pharmacists, community health programs, and patients together to craft new ways of improving the quality of health care and the efficiency of health care delivery. The project also redirected existing resources out of administration and record keeping and into patient care.

Unlike many other major diseases, such as heart disease or cancer, the occurrence of diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate. In the last ten years alone, the incidence of Type 2 diabetes has increased by almost fifty percent, especially among young people. This rapid increase in diabetes goes hand-in-hand with the epidemic of obesity; being overweight is the main risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. The Delta BLUES Beacon project was focused on ways to overcome this crisis. The key initiatives were health information technologies (HIT) and clinical interventions. It was those interventions that formed the backbone of our BLUES project.

As a result of this study, we identified specific clinical interventions that could make a difference in the care of patients and technology deficits that prevented the implementation and use of the latest software and communication tools.

In collaboration with AcademyHealth, the Southeast Michigan Beacon Community and the Hawaii Island Beacon Community, DHA published the first of three manuscripts, “Patient Engagement and Activation in Three Underserved Beacon Communities,” in the August 2015 issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.