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Beacon Communities Announcement

Cincinnati, Ohio
September 1, 2010

Thank you, Representative Driehaus, for that nice introduction. Representative Driehaus is a great champion for the people of southwest Ohio. And over the last year and a half, no one’s fought harder than Representative Driehaus to support families, create jobs, and restore our economy.

Like Representative Driehaus, this Administration believes that a recession is not the time for the federal government to adopt the philosophy of “every man and woman for themselves.” That’s why as part of the Recovery Act, our department has provided more than $3 billion to Ohio to prevent cuts to critical health services, boost job training, save child care programs, and keep cops on the streets.

It’s why we fought to pass a health insurance reform law that has already sent checks to nearly 40,000 Ohio seniors facing high prescription drug costs, allowed 35,000 young Buckeyes to get quality coverage on their parent’s insurance plan, and provided relief to more than 75 Ohio businesses, unions, and government benefit plans from their rising retiree health insurance bills.

That has been our focus over the last year and a half. And as we go forward, that focus will not waver. But part of America’s greatness is that even in tough times, we have always kept one eye on the future. We know that our future prosperity depends not just on getting back to where we were, but on pushing into new frontiers, not just on recovering jobs, but on creating the jobs of the future.

That’s why we’re here this morning. Today, I’m pleased to announce that as part of the Recovery Act’s historic investment in health information technology, we will spend more than $13 million over the next three years right here in Cincinnati to support an innovative effort to use health IT to improve patient care by creating better coordination between doctors, nurses, and other health care providers.

With this investment, we are designating Cincinnati as one of 17 “Beacon Communities” around the country. These communities are already leaders in using health information technology to support doctors and empower patients. By providing this boost in funding, we hope they can take their information systems to the next level and become role models for other cities.

When we announced this Beacon program last year, we didn’t know how much interest there would be. But we ended up with nearly 100 very impressive applications, which I think is a sign of the momentum behind this technology.

In communities across the country, we’ve seen the power of electronic health records to cut health care costs, reduce paperwork, improve outcomes, and give patients more control over their health care. Four months ago, I visited the neonatal ward at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital where they had gone 1,000 days without a serious safety incident – a record they credited to their use of health IT.

But despite these success stories, only two in ten doctors and one in ten hospitals use even a basic electronic record system.

That’s because for too many health care providers, these benefits were outweighed by their costs: the difficulty of learning a new technology, the challenge of sharing information with other providers securely, the shortage of workers who could operate these systems, and the expense of installing them.

For too long, these obstacles have been the dam holding back an information technology revolution that has already swept through other industries, driving down costs and improving the customer experience.

That’s why as part of the Recovery Act, we created Health IT Regional Extension Centers across the country, including one right here in Cincinnati, where doctors can get help choosing and installing an electronic health records. We’re providing grants to support the secure exchange of health information and train more health IT workers. And we are providing bonus payments for hospitals and doctors that use electronic health records to improve care.

In the past, some providers had expressed skepticism about the standards they’d have to meet to earn these payments. But in another sign of the growing momentum behind health information technology, we’ve recently seen leading doctor and hospital groups come out in favor of them.

Together, these investments are going to knock down many of the barriers standing in the way of building a 21st century health care system. And as other communities begin to embrace this technology, they’ll be able to follow the example you’re setting right here in Cincinnati.

With the awards we’re announcing today, a coalition of health care providers will use health information technology to deliver better, more coordinated care to Cincinnati residents with chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma. As a diabetes patient, you might get care from a primary care doctor, an endocrinologist, an eye specialist, a foot specialist, a home health provider, and a pharmacist. These awards will help all these providers work together to make sure these patients get the right care at the right time.

The result is that the people of Cincinnati are going to be healthier. Doctors are going to have more tools to do their job. Cities around the country are going to have a role model for using health IT effectively. And Cincinnati’s economy is going to be a growing leader in one of the key industries of the future.

That’s the kind of change that’s going to make us a stronger country today and tomorrow. And it’s starting here in Cincinnati.

Thank you. And now I’d like to turn the program over to our awardee…