Term: Beacon Community Program


The Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program provides funding to selected communities to build and strengthen their health information technology (health IT) infrastructure and exchange capabilities. The program supports these communities at the cutting edge of electronic health record (EHR) adoption and health information exchange to push them to a new level of sustainable health care quality and efficiency. The program also will show how other communities can use health IT to achieve similar goals.


  • Under that authority, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) made $265 million available in funding for the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program: $250 million in cooperative agreement funding to communities and $15 million in technical assistance to communities and to evaluate the program’s success.
  • The goal of the Beacon program is to advance a health information technology (health IT) infrastructure that will support the nationwide electronic exchange and use of health information in a secure, private, and accurate manner. It is anticipated to demonstrate the promise for health IT and provide evidence to providers and other communities that widespread adoption of health IT and exchange of health information is both feasible and can inform specific reforms to improve care delivery and health outcomes. The program also will generate lessons learned about how other communities can achieve practical health care system improvements on a community-wide or regional basis.
  • Beacon Communities funded through the program are on the cutting edge of electronic health record (EHR) adoption and health information exchange. Through the program, they will build on an existing infrastructure of interoperable health IT and standards-based information exchange to advance specific health improvement goals and develop steps to make specific quality and cost efficiency gains sustainable beyond the award period.
  • Beacon Communities will coordinate with the Regional Extension Center Program and State Health Information Exchange Program in their geographic areas, including the Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC), to develop and disseminate best practices for the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records and to facilitate national goals for widespread use of health IT. A core challenge that these communities will address is assisting other communities in identifying specific ways to use health IT for practical improvements in care.
  • Beacon Communities will also leverage other existing federal programs and resources that are working to promote health information exchange at the community level, including:
    • Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs development of a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Health Record (VLER) for all active duty service members, National Guard, Reserve, retired military personnel, and eligible separated Veterans
    • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) programs at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and the Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCNs) for the adoption of certified electronic health records and exchange of health information
    • Department of Agriculture and Department of Commerce efforts to extend broadband infrastructure


  • Heath Information Exchange (HIE)
  • Regional Extension Centers (REC)
  • Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Communities funded through this program will be expected to invest in the health IT architecture of the community and to develop and strengthen an existing infrastructure of interoperable health IT and standards-based information exchange while also advancing specific clinical and non-clinical interventions and programs that make use of data from health IT resources. All of this will be done to lead toward achieving specific health improvement goals developed by each community. As part of the cooperative agreements that will support the 17 chosen communities, recipients will be asked to define, track, and report on progress toward concrete, measurable health and efficiency goals. These might include reductions in blood pressure among hypertensives, reduced blood sugar levels among diabetics, lower smoking levels, or reductions in health care disparities among populations. It will also include steps to ensure that health IT-enabled quality improvement activities can also facilitate improvements in cost efficiency, as measured by reductions in avoidable complications when patients transition from one care setting to another and reductions in preventable emergency department (ED) visits and hospital readmissions, among others.\

The Beacon funding will be used to further strengthen health IT infrastructure and health information exchange capabilities that in turn can inform specific improvements in the delivery of health care. Each Beacon Community has identified specific quality, efficiency, and population health goals and will use health IT resources as a foundation to achieve them.

Web Resources:

Beacon Community Program

Related Terminology:

  • Health Information Exchange
  • Health IT Infrastructure