Last week, Georgia joined a select group of more than a dozen other
states that have created health IT advisory panels when it established
its Health Information and Transparency Advisory Board. But despite
this plethora of health IT groups, no one seems to be tracking exactly
how many of these boards there are, what they're doing and how much
money they have to accomplish their goals.
Coming on the heels of the Georgia announcement, the Office of the
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology last week
awarded the National Governors Association's Center for Best Practices
a nearly $2 million contract for one year and two option years to
develop a State Alliance for e-Health. The group is charged with the
general task of increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of state
health IT initiatives.
"The ultimate goal is to begin to provide some guidance and
potentially some standards and model laws," said Kathleen Nolan,
director of the NGA Center for Best Practices' health division. "States
are clamoring for help and strategies because they don't want to
reproduce the mistakes others have made."
Part of the difficulty in keeping track of these advisory councils is
that some of them, such as Georgia's, were created by an executive
order of the governor, while others -- such as Kentucky's e-Health Network
Board -- were brought to life by the state legislatures. Then there's
Virginia, where Gov. Mark Warner created a Task Force on Information
Technology in Health Care last January and later established a Health
Information Technology Council in July. In Arizona, the governor's
Health-e Connection Steering Committee is transitioning from a state
advisory panel to an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3)
Improving the Quality of Healthcare through Health Information
Exchange, a Sept. 25 report which compiled findings from the eHealth
Initiative's third annual survey of state, regional and local health
information exchange programs, noted that in 2005 and 2006, 53 bills
were introduced in 25 state legislatures that called for the creation
of a commission, committee, council or task force to provide leadership
or recommendations on health IT or a health information exchange
network. Of those, 19 bills passed in 13 states.
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society also tracks
state health IT legislation, but similar to eHealth Initiative, it
doesn't maintain a list of state advisory councils or their budgets.
Neither does the American Health Information Management Association,
National Conference of State Legislatures or the National Governors
Association. Information from these organizations provides a
less-than-authoritative list of states with some kind of health IT
advisory body, including: Arizona, California,
Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Minnesota,
Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Colorado, Indiana and Massachusetts have managed to launch health IT
initiatives that are far ahead of most states that do not have IT
advisory panels, while in Pennsylvania, private-sector stakeholders
combined efforts with state health agencies under the umbrella of the
Pennsylvania eHealth Initiative.
As one of the first states to launch a health IT panel, Arizona
provided advice to other states, such as Florida, Michigan and Texas,
said Chris Cummiskey, chief information officer for the state of
"For us, the path wasn't as clear," Cummiskey said. "We couldn't look
at another state and say 'Those guys did it right.' "
Cummiskey said a major focus of Arizona's panel has been to find ways
to facilitate health IT adoption in rural areas, but it has also
reviewed technical issues for providing secure delivery mechanisms for
electronic prescriptions, diagnostic images and laboratory results.
In Texas, promoting health IT is going hand in hand with efforts to
improve healthcare cost transparency. And in Kentucky, the state's
e-Health Network Board is about to release the first of what it hopes
to be many annual reports. It has also just started taking applications
for a matching grant program that will facilitate electronic
prescribing in three to six communities. The program, e-Prescribing
Partnerships in Kentucky or ePPIK, has $300,000 to spend from a federal
grant and a contribution from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, an organization launched with $45 million in charitable assets from Blue Cross Blue
Shield of Kentucky when its parent converted to the for-profit company Anthem.
"We can really leverage the funds available to us to allow
communities to move forward," said Trudi Matthews, chief policy adviser
for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Cummiskey said that in order to get people "to do whats necessary on
the ground," local efforts based on established relationships are more
effective than federal edicts "handed down from on high."What do you think? Write us with your comments at
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