States march forward on health IT

A flurry of legislative activity in the state capitals over the past six months is laying the groundwork for coordinated health information technology initiatives at the state level.

So far 168 health IT bills have been introduced in 41 states, said Janet Marchibroda, chief executive officer of the Washington-based nonprofit group eHealth Initiative, speaking today at Input Inc.'s State and Local Marketview Conference in Vienna, Va.

Moreover, governors have signed into law 13 health IT-related bills in 11 states already this year, she said. The amount of legislative activity in this area far surpasses that of the past several years, she said. Such laws mandate plans and in some cases provide funding for the mandates.

Health IT involves the aggregation of disparate data on patient's conditions and medical episodes in data repositories that enable it to be more easily accessed by health care providers to improve patient care and treatment. Traditionally, public and private health care has lagged behind other realms to the point that it is seen by many observers as the "last frontier" for digital advances, she said.

About half of the states are developing plans related to health IT because of concerns about the quality of health care delivery within their borders. Two years ago, she said, most states were aware they needed to move forward on health IT but hadn't really taken concrete action. Now the majority of states are either planning or actively developing statewide health IT strategies. Still, only a small number have reached the point of implementing plans, she said.

While some important steps have been taken, much remains to be done, she said. "We will see a vast amount of change over the next five years," she said.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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