Hawai’i Island Beacon Community (HIBC)
The Big Island
Hawai‘i County or Hawai‘i Island, also commonly referred to as the Big Island, is one of the most diverse counties in the United States: ethnically, geographically and economically. The richness of this diversity brings with it significant challenges to health and access to care. As a result, the burden of illness for the entire county is high and many subpopulations experience health disparities.
The Big Island has a population of approximately 187,000 living in an area similar in size to the State of Connecticut. Approximately one-third of the population is native Hawaiian. Fourteen percent are over age 65. The island has the lowest per capita income and the highest rate of poverty, unemployment and uninsured in the state. Furthermore, several sub-populations are at higher risk for disease and adverse health outcomes, including Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, the under- and uninsured and the elderly. Death rates from heart disease are 20 percent higher than the rest of the state and approximately nine percent of the county’s population have diabetes and 28 percent are hypertensive.
These health disparities are further complicated by several unique challenges: geographic isolation as an island community which limits access to health care, lack of consistent public transportation, and a severe shortage of health professionals. The Hawai‘i Island Beacon Community (HIBC) dedicated themselves to overcoming these barriers in order to improve health care on the Big Island.
Tradition of Collaboration
Hawai‘i Island has a tradition of collaboration among medical providers, payers, hospitals and community based organizations. It was this tradition of collaboration that led the University of Hawaii‘i at Hilo College of Pharmacy to organize a consortium of organizations to apply to become one of the seventeen Beacon Communities funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Beacon Community Program is a federally funded project to increase the quality, efficiency and sustainability of health care through health information technology (health IT). Its work is a significant part of a larger effort to modernize the nation’s health care delivery system.
Each of the 17 Beacon Communities is building and strengthening local health IT infrastructure, testing innovative approaches for using connected technology to improve care delivery and making measurable improvements that benefit both individual and population health.
Through these efforts, Hawai‘i Island Beacon Community is a model of change that can instruct the work of other cities, counties, and regions. As the nation transforms the way it pays for health care, the Beacon program’s achievements will help guide other communities in how to meet the challenges and succeed. As the nation transforms the way it pays for health care, the Beacon program’s achievements will help guide other communities in how to meet the challenges and succeed.
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