Delta BLUES Beacon Community
The DHA BLUES Beacon is one of 17 sites nationwide dedicated to advancing the adoption of electronic health records and expanding connections through health information exchange. Residents of the Mississippi Delta will ultimately benefit from a healthcare delivery system that is more cost efficient and easier to navigate. The BLUES (Better Lives Utilizing Electronic Systems) Beacon Community may focus on improving the health of people living with diabetes, but the overall goal is to improve the health of all people living in the Delta, using proven practice and information technology. We aim to make it easier for you to access care.
The Mississippi Delta struggles with a particularly high rate of diabetes —approximately 13 percent of residents, compared with a national average of 7 percent. This region has a particularly low number of health care providers and health care facilities, with resultant low access to health care, which is reflected by the very poor health statistics in the Mississippi Delta.
Goal of the Program:
The goal of the BLUES (Better Living Utilizing Electronic Systems) Beacon Community is to improve access to care for diabetic patients through the meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) and health information exchange (HIE) by primary care providers in the Mississippi Delta. The program also seeks to increase the efficiency of health care in the area by reducing excess health care costs for patients with diabetes through the use of EHR-related interventions that will:
- Encourage the use of best practices for the management of diabetes and related conditions
- Reduce preventable hospital stays due to diabetes
- Provide more accurate billing information
Using Health IT to Make a Difference
The BLUES Beacon Community will provide support for the use of best practices in clinical care as well as in the implementation of EHRs in the Mississippi Delta. The program will also help to build the infrastructure for health information exchange that will connect these providers with each other and with local hospitals and will allow them to work more effectively and cooperatively to improve the disease management of their patients.
The implementation of EHRs and health information exchange provides an opportunity to redesign processes within practices and throughout the health care system in the area in order to:
- Promote best practices in chronic disease management and care coordination
- Improve monitoring systems for diabetes control
- Enhance patient education efforts so that patients have the information they need to manage their conditions
- Set up providers to achieve meaningful use of EHRs
- Ensure that health information can flow reliably and securely among authorized parties, and
- Improve effectiveness and efficiencies in the practice setting, including better patient outcomes.
The BLUES Beacon Community will also address significant barriers to the implementation of EHR and telemedicine initiatives in the area, including the lack of high speed broadband lines, physician and staff acceptance to change, and the lack of fully implemented Practice Management systems in the provider’s office.
A Team Approach
The Delta Health Alliance (DHA) is a partnership founded by Delta State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi Valley State University, University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Delta Council. Other partners include: Capps Center for Workforce Technology, Mississippi Hospital Association, Mississippi Primary Health Care Association, Mississippi State Department of Health, University of Mississippi, and University of Southern Mississippi.
Individual healthcare providers who want to join the effort to bring EHRs and health information exchange to benefit the health of Delta residents sign a Memorandum of Agreement that allows for them to be a full partner in the EHR / HIE effort with the expectation that the provider will participate in best practices for their patients. DHA staff also works with the Mississippi Regional Extension Center to provide education to providers who use EHRs regarding the application of best practice solutions and care guides to improve care to diabetic patients.
Improvements for Patients and the Community
Widespread use of EHRs and health information exchanges mean that medical history will be available when a patient seeks care from another provider. By looking at that history, the provider will see what other professionals have prescribed and the history of that patient’s lab results. This will help facilitate faster, more accurate and more efficient diagnosis and care.
Health information technology can also allow patients to become more active in their own care. For example, when patients can see the tracked results of A1C and glucose levels via their own personal health record, they see the connection between their daily habits and medication adherence and their health outcomes. Through a program with the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, patients will receive monthly telephone calls to see if they have questions about their medications or how to take them. It is hoped that this program will help reduce the negative impact—including hospital and nursing home admissions and automobile accidents—of mis-used or un-used prescription medications.
In addition, EHRs will help providers be more responsive to patients who call the practice with questions or concerns. Telephone messages will now become electronic documents that are linked to the chart, eliminating lost messages and facilitating more complete and accurate provider responses, since the patient’s health information will be available at the time of call back.
Applying Models to Other Communities
The challenges to improving health care and implementing health information technology in the Mississippi Delta are similar to those faced by other areas of the country—only larger and more starkly. The success of the BLUES Beacon Community program can help identify best practices and effective strategies that can help other communities, especially rural communities with small healthcare provider facilities, improve health outcomes through EHRs and health information exchange.
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Download the Delta Blues Beacon Quarterly Report (for quarter ending March 31, 2013) as well as Attachment B.