The old adage about necessity being the mother of invention couldn’t possibly be furnished with a better example than the healthcare delivery landscape in New Orleans. That city and metropolitan area, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, had already been socioeconomically challenged for years prior to that megastorm. In the wake of that disaster, the residents of greater New Orleans were dealt blow after blow by a combination of nature, economics, and in some instances, politics.
Fortunately for the disadvantaged residents of The Big Easy, civic and healthcare leaders came together in a variety of ways to work to improve health status among its diverse population. One of the organizations that helped lead the charge was the Louisiana Public Health Institute, a not-for-profit public health institute established in 1997, whose mission has been “to promote and improve health and quality of life in Louisiana through diverse public-private partnerships with government, foundations, community groups, academia and private businesses at the community, parish and state levels.”
Not surprisingly, the LPHI’s leaders leapt at the chance to participate in the federal Beacon Communities program, when it was established by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in December 2009. Under the leadership of Anjum Khurshid, M.D., director of the LPHI’s Health Systems Division, and Maria Ludwick, an associate director in the Health Systems Division, LPHI applied for beacon community status, and was awarded with a federal grant, under the aegis of the Crescent City Beacon Community (CCBC) initiative. There are a lot of elements to what Khurshid and Ludwick and their colleagues are doing both at CCBC and at LPHI, its animating organization; but the bottom line is a massive effort to improve the health status of the entire New Orleans metropolitan area, through what is essentially an initiative to create a metro area-wide patient centered medical home model.
Armed with beacon community status, which was granted to the CCBC in April 2010 (CCBC is one of the 17 beacon communities nationwide), and with initial funding of $13.5 million over three years, ending in 2013, Khurshid, Ludwick, and their colleagues moved forward with a very purposeful mission—to create “a patient-centered, accountable, community-wide focus for care, irrespective of whoever the payer is,” as Dr. Khurshid told me in late 2012, as I prepared our coverage of his organization’s co-second-place winning profile in the 2013 Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards Program.
One of the key areas of the team’s focus was on improving communications between and among clinicians and administrators in all the settings of care in the community, from physician offices and clinics to emergency departments to inpatient hospitals. Such communications have historically been fraught with gaps and problems. But the CCBC initiative funded the deployment of care managers, who worked with the 160 physicians staffing 20 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in the metro area. Those care managers made use of two critical IT elements to improve communications: a community-wide health information exchange (HIE) sponsored by the LPHI/CCBC, and the deployment of electronic health records (EHRs) by physicians at all 20 FQHCs, which at that time were serving a population of more than 250,000 local residents, many of whom are Medicaid recipients or are uninsured.
A core problem the team tackled was that no mechanism had existed for informing the PCP of hospitalization or ED visits or specialty care visits; the initiative helped to fix that, via a community-wide health information exchange.
What impressed us editors at Healthcare Informatics about all this was the degree to which the policy and implementational aspects of the Louisiana Public Health Institute’s initiative were aligned—and that was particularly so, given the need that was made so abundantly clear in post-Katrina New Orleans.
These are exactly the kinds of initiatives that we’ve been looking for ever since the first year we changed the format of the awards in 2009, to recognize innovative efforts created and executed by teams.
Are you and your colleagues creating innovation in your organizations? The innovation involved can be of any kind that has moved your organization forward, along clinical, operational, financial, or organizational lines; and that benefits your community in some concrete way. The ideal is to be able to share innovations that have involved the ingenious leveraging of data and information technology for these purposes. The program is open to submissions by all patient care organizations, including hospitals, medical groups, and integrated health systems, and collaboratives of patient care organizations; health information exchanges; and health plans. We do not accept submissions from vendor companies.
Are you and your colleagues innovators? Please let us know—and let the world know—by submitting today to our Innovator Awards Program. And the good news is that we’ve just extended the deadline for submissions for two weeks! The link to the program is here. Thank you for reading and considering this, and best of luck in your submission to this year’s program!