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Cincinnati Beacon Community Partnership

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August 8, 2012
Cincinnati, OH

I want to thank all of you for joining us today to talk about a great success story here in Cincinnati that is a big part of national success story that has huge benefits for our country’s health and economy.

And I want to start with a little history of how we got here.

Over the last few decades we’ve seen industry after industry use information technology to bring down costs and improve customers’ experience.  And when technology has been used effectively in health care, we’ve seen the same thing.  One recent study of more than 27,000 adults with diabetes right here in Ohio found that those with electronic health records were 600 percent more likely to get the right care.

And yet when this Administration came into office in 2009, just one in five doctors and one in five hospitals used even a basic electronic health record system, and those rates were barely rising.

So over the last three years, under the leadership of Farzad, we’ve worked with partners and health care providers across the country to start eliminating the obstacles that were keeping us in the era of misplaced files and musty cabinets.

Providers told us that they were concerned they’d make big investments in electronic health records, only to see them become obsolete in a few years. So we invested in creating common standards that would ensure compatibility down the road.

Small practices were concerned that without big IT departments they wouldn’t be able to learn or manage their systems.  So we created Regional Extension Centers – based on the agriculture model – that give small practices access to on the ground help from experienced health IT professionals.

Another problem was the high up-front costs of installing electronic health records in a hospital or practice. So we provided incentive payments to help offset the investment it takes to switch over. And in Ohio alone we’ve invested over $268 million to get more than 6,200 providers up and running.

A final concern was that even with all the assistance, there were few models of how a community could put all these pieces together to create a fully integrated health system that could really work for patients and their families.

That’s why we created the Beacon Community program, and chose Cincinnati as one of the sites.  And I want to congratulate HealthBridge, Cincinnati Children’s and the rest of your partners for all the amazing work you’ve done.

As I learned today, Cincinnati has already seen some big health benefits.

Here at Children’s, they’ve been using funds to support their work cutting emergency visits and hospitalizations for at-risk youth with asthma.

Their program runs right out of their pediatric clinic and matches families with a social worker at Children’s who serves as their asthma coordinator.  Those coordinators stay in touch with the family to ensure parents are filling prescriptions and getting preventive care for their children.  And using HealthBridge technology, these coordinators are also connected to hospitals across Cincinnati. So if one of their kids ends up in an ER, their coordinator and pediatrician know about it immediately and can get to work on making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Thanks to this work in the last year and a half, we’ve seen a 29 percent drop in ER visits and a 40 percent drop in hospital admissions. That’s a big deal for Cincinnati families and it shows us just how powerful health information technology can be when we use it to its full potential.

And the good news for the rest of the country is that the progress we’ve seen in Cincinnati is starting to spread.

Thanks to the efforts that we’ve undertaken in the last few years, electronic health record adoption rates that had been flat are now growing rapidly. Today, more than 3,300 of the nation’s hospitals are in the process of adopting electronic health records. And electronic health record use among doctors has tripled.

And one last point I want to make is that, as good as this is for health, it’s just as good for our economy. Health IT has added 50,000 jobs in the last three years. And we’ve seen an infusion of venture capital into health IT. This is a new high tech industry for the U.S. that has a lot of growth potential in the years to come.

So I want to thank you for your leadership here in Cincinnati.  And I look forward to talking more about your experience here.

Thank you.