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Secretary Sebelius to visit RI

January 6, 2011

Secretary of HHS (Heath and Human Services) Kathleen Sebelius is making a very quick stop in the Ocean State tomorrow.

And by quick I mean about an hour and 45 minutes.

I’m told her flight lands at 9:15am and she’ll be leaving around 11am.

In that brief window of time, she’ll be in Woonsocket talking about the launch of the Rhode Island’s  “Beacon Community”

Rhode Island is one of 17 of these so called “Beacons.”  It’s essentially a grant, paid f or by the stimulus, to encourage the use of health information technology.

Rhode Island has a pretty good track record when it comes to health information technology.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is a huge advocate.  In fact, his people tell me that it was his idea to use HHS money to create these Beacon Communities when he wrote this letter.

He also helped to create the Rhode Island Quality Institute, the non profit which actually received the grant, and received 2 others for a total of almost 27 million dollars in federal money for health IT related projects.

The $15,914,787 from this grant helps the Ocean State not only establish the mechanisms for things like electronic health records, but aims to use the technology to improve patient health.  Rhode Island’s project plans to focus on a few things-

  • Enhance the quality of care provided to patients with diabetes by encouraging adherence to nationally recognized, evidence-based guidelines and the patient-centered medical home model
  • Reduce preventable hospital and emergency department use
  • Reduce the impact of tobacco use on the health of the state’s population
  • Reduce the impact of undiagnosed, untreated depression through increased screening

Exactly HOW electronic data about patients will do all of these things isn’t totally clear.  I can imagine a few ways- a program that shows an alert when a patient hasn’t been screened for depression, an electronic form for monitoring blood sugar levels for patients with diabetes.  I’m less clear about how digital data will reduce the impact of tobacco use or reduce preventable hospital/ER use.

Here’s a video with Laura Adams, the President and CEO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute, talking a little more about the program.

I’ll be talking with Adams later in the day to get more details.  In the meantime,  is there anything you’d like to ask Kathleen Sebelius while we have her in Rhode Island?

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