States Wired for Health Information Technology

Information technology to electronically collect, store, retrieve and transfer clinical, administrative and financial health information.

by / December 10, 2008

States are moving at an unprecedented rate to get their health care systems wired and connected. And each year, they increase their speed. To this end, states are passing legislation on health information technology to try to improve the quality of care and control hemorrhaging costs. Lawmakers around the country introduced more than 370 bills relating to health information technology during an 18-month period between 2007 and 2008, according to a new report Health Information Technology: 2007 and 2008 State Legislation from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Specifically, 132 bills containing health information technology provisions were enacted in 44 states and the District of Columbia. That's three times as many bills enacted compared to the same period from 2005 to 2006. The majority of bills relate to financing and planning efforts. Six states enacted comprehensive measures aimed at protecting patient privacy while facilitating the exchange of health data.

States consider health information technology an integral part of their health reform initiatives, according to the report. President-elect Barack Obama also mentioned health information technology often during the presidential campaign as a way to improve overall care across the country.

"This is a health care IT revolution in that state governments and their federal partners are moving toward a seamless, integrated system of information sharing ranging from patient medical records to insurance claims to filling a patient's drug prescription," said state Sen. Richard Moore of Massachusetts. Moore, vice president of NCSL, chairs his state's Senate Health Care Finance Committee and developed the nation's first universal health coverage plan in Massachusetts.

Although health care has been slow to adopt the information technology wave that has swept other sectors of the U.S. economy, states and the health care industry now view health IT as a chance to improve quality and reduce costs. In the report, health information technology refers to the use of technology to electronically collect, store, retrieve and transfer clinical, administrative and financial health information.

The report identifies and analyzes major policy trends contained in the enacted legislation. Some of the state bills address simplifying the ways to link vital pieces of patient data scattered across providers. Others ensure patient medical records are kept private. The report, produced through NCSL's Forum on State Health Policy Leadership, found that states consider having patient data in one location essential for ensuring high-quality care and reducing duplicative tests and procedures.