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Beacon communities commentary, and other SearchHealthIT.com news

As reported last week, the federal government will award two more Beacon communities grants, on top of the 15 grants given out last month. In speaking to grant winners — some of whom are also involved in the development of health information exchanges and regional extension centers — it is clear that Beacon communities, HIEs and RECs plan to work together to help physicians adopt health IT.

However, one physician we talked to wondered if the Beacon communities and other federal programs would benefit those who have implemented electronic health record (EHR) systems already. While the development of robust HIEs will reduce health care’s reliance on paper, EHR use increases a doctor’s workload but not the number of billable hours, the physician noted.

Check out the rest of last week’s SearchHealthIT.com coverage:

Market for personal health records, Google Health, at a crossroads: Google is denying rumors that it’s retreating from its personal health record (PHR) service and says the market is alive and well. But consumer demand for PHRs is still lacking.

Digital signature technology can bolster health care data security: Digital signature technology, common in legal and financial firms, is catching on in health care data security. Learn how digital signatures help providers, and what is required to implement them.

ONC leader lays out agenda for national health information technology: In this video, Dr. David Blumenthal discusses the national health IT agenda, including Beacon communities, RECs and other important efforts to watch.

EHR usability a matter of competitive edge: Vendors say that end users are an integral part of their EHR design process, but formal standards and best practices that guide usability are lacking. Part of the problem is vendors’ reluctance to open up, a recent report notes.

Merging payer, provider data in EHR systems: Payers may seem to benefit more than providers from EHR systems, but one vendor aiming to bridge the gap between the two sides says focusing on quality of care will help providers eventually trust payers.

Veterans Affairs department leads the way in telehealth services: There are still a number of obstacles to overcome before telehealth services can be integrated into the private health sector, but the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a good model with three levels of service.

HHS initiative offers health data, promises improved community health: The Community Health Data Initiative makes federal health data available to all. To have a reasonable chance to effect change, though, that data must be used properly.

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