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Case study

The Southeastern Minnesota Beacon Project for Community-driven Health Information Technology: Origins, Achievements, and Legacy


Christopher G. Chute ,

Mayo Clinic
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Lacey A. Hart,

Mayo Clinic
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Alex K. Alexander,

Mayo Clinic
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Daniel W. Jensen

Olmsted County Public Health Services
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Introduction: The Southeastern (SE) Minnesota Beacon organized all the health care providers, county public health organizations, and school districts in the deployment and integration of health information exchange (HIE) and targeted health communication around childhood asthma and diabetes. The community cooperated to establish a clinical data repository for all residents in the 11-county region. Through this community of practice approach that involved traditional and nontraditional providers, the SE Minnesota Beacon was able to realize unique applications of this technology. This manuscript overviews the associated organization and infrastructure of this community collaboration.

Background: The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) stimulus, established 17 projects throughout the United States targeting the introduction and meaningful use of health information technology (HIT). These 17 communities were intended to serve as an example of what could be accomplished. The SE Minnesota Beacon is one of these communities.

Methods: The community ultimately opted for peer-to-peer HIE, using Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) Connect software. The clinical data repository was established using the infrastructure developed by the Regenstrief Institute, which operated as a trusted third party. As an extension to HIE, the consortium of county public health departments created a patient data portal for use by school nurses and parents. Childhood asthma was addressed by creating, exchanging, and maintaining an “asthma action plan” for each affected child, shared throughout the community, including through the patient portal. Diabetes management introduced patient treatment decision tools and patient quality of life measures, facilitating care. Influenza vaccination was enhanced by large-scale community reporting in partnership with the state vaccination registry. The methodology and principles for arriving at these solutions included community engagement, sustainability, scalability, standards, and best practices that fit a variety of organizations—from large, robust providers to small organizations.

Findings: The SE Minnesota Beacon demonstrated that all providers for a geographically defined population can cooperate in the development and shared governance of a low-cost, sustainable HIE, and the operation of a community-managed clinical data repository. Furthermore, these infrastructures can be leveraged to collaboratively improve the care of patients, as demonstrated for childhood asthma and adult diabetes mellitus.

Conclusion: The shared governance of HIT by a community can palpably change the scope and success of collaborations targeted to improve patient and community health care.

How to Cite: Chute CG, Hart LA, Alexander AK, Jensen DW. The Southeastern Minnesota Beacon Project for Community-driven Health Information Technology: Origins, Achievements, and Legacy. eGEMs (Generating Evidence & Methods to improve patient outcomes). 2014;2(3):16. DOI:
Published on 28 Oct 2014.
Peer Reviewed


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