Submission Type

Case Study


Beacon Communities, data sharing, health information exchange


Introduction: The Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program supports interventions, including care-delivery innovations, provider performance measurement and feedback initiatives, and tools for providers and consumers to enhance care. Using a learning health system framework, we examine the Beacon Communities’ processes in building and strengthening health IT (HIT) infrastructures, specifically successes and challenges in sharing patient information to improve clinical care.

Background: In 2010, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) launched the three-year program, which provided $250 million to 17 Beacon Communities to invest in HIT and health information exchange (HIE) infrastructure. Beacon Communities used this funding to develop and disseminate HIT-enabled quality improvement practices found effective in particular community and practice environments.

Methods: NORC conducted 7 site visits, November 2012– March 2013, selecting Communities to represent diverse program features. From August–October 2013, NORC held discussions with the remaining 10 Communities. Following each visit or discussion, NORC summarized the information gathered, including transcripts, team observations, and other documents the Community provided, to facilitate a within-Community analysis of context and stakeholders, intervention strategies, enabling factors, and challenges.

Results: Although each Community designed and implemented data-sharing strategies in a unique environment, similar challenges and enabling factors emerged across the Beacons. From a learning health system perspective, their strategies to build and strengthen data-sharing infrastructures address the following crosscutting priorities: promoting technical advances and innovations by helping providers adapt EHRs for data exchange and performance measurement with customizable IT and offering technical support to smaller, independent providers; engaging key stakeholders; and fostering transparent governance and stewardship of the infrastructure with neutral conveners. .

Conclusion: While all the Communities developed or strengthened data-exchange infrastructure, each did this in a unique environment of existing health care market and legal factors. The Communities, however, encountered similar challenges and enabling factors. Organizations undertaking collaborative data sharing, performance measurement and clinical transformation can learn from the Beacon Communities’ experience.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.