The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), which represents the chief information officers (CIOs) of the states, released a brief on the role of the state CIO in health IT. The brief, titled "The (IT) Doctor Is In: The Role of the State CIO in Health IT," was developed as part of the work of NASCIO's 2005-06 Health IT Committee, led by co-chairs Larry Biggio, CIO of Wyoming, and Steve Dawson, CIO of New Jersey. The brief is intended to help state CIOs -- along with other stakeholders and policymakers -- determine the appropriate role of the state CIO in guiding their states' enterprise IT in keeping with the larger national effort to save lives and money in healthcare.

"We hope that this brief will jumpstart thinking by state CIOs on this issue. They may not know that some of their peers are already formally engaged in health IT," said Dawson. "The train is leaving the station, but there's still time to catch it."

"NASCIO's Health IT Committee intends to follow up this brief with a survey of the state of the states in health IT," said Biggio. "We'll be looking for which state governments have health IT plans, how comprehensive those plans are, and the degree to which the state CIO and enterprise IT issues are considered."

"Most people overlook the fact that state governments play a major role in their state's healthcare economies," said Doug Robinson, NASCIO's executive director. "States provide billions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursement. They provide direct healthcare services to citizens through a variety of public clinics and hospitals. And, they purchase insurance for tens of thousands of state employees. Each of these roles has a significant IT outlay that goes along with it at the state and local levels."

"The state plays a critical role in mobilizing information electronically to support improvements in patient care," said Janet Marchibroda, chief executive officer of the eHealth Initiative, of which NASCIO is a member. "Some states serve as convener, while others offer their support as a champion or a participant. In its role as purchaser, payer, and in some cases, provider, the state can play an enormous role in catalyzing change to improve health and healthcare."