The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded 15 "beacon communities" a total of $220 million in grants to support test cases for health IT, in an announcement Tuesday, May 4.

Chosen to reflect geographic diversity, the nonprofit communities picked for the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program will build infrastructure for health IT and will implement privacy and security measures for the health-care information that's exchanged.

HHS announced the program last December, with the intent of demonstrating the potential of modernizing health IT systems, building electronic health record systems and health information exchange.

For example the University of Hawaii at Hilo was awarded $16 million to "implement a regionwide Health Information Exchange and Patient Health Record solution and utilize secure, Internet-based care coordination and telemonitoring tools to increase access to specialty care for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity in this rural, health-professional shortage area."

In another case, the Louisiana Public Health Institute in New Orleans was given $13.5 million to "reduce racial health disparities and improve control of diabetes and smoking cessation rates by linking technically isolated health systems, providers and hospitals; and empower patients by increasing their access to personal health records."

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