Top 2013 issues on state CIOs' radar

By Anthony Brino
01:03 PM

Amid growing data challenges and government budget woes lingering from the Great Recession, state IT officials are getting ready for 2013 and beyond — mindful of emerging cloud and mobile technologies and their benefits and pitfalls, among other things.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) has prioritized about a dozen issues and trends for 2013, as many state health agencies in particular get ready for the finals waves of Affordable Care Act implementation and new data collection and eligibility requirements.

Number one on the list is consolidation of data infrastructure and services, a strategy that health agencies may embrace as a way to adapt to new data challenges associated with Medicaid changes and state health insurance exchanges.

Consolidation is also a goal that seems to fit naturally with cloud services, the effective management of which NASCIO lists as its second priority. Scalable, elastic and affordable, cloud services offer numerous benefits to state agencies, NASCIO says.

One health organization that’s blending consolidation and the cloud is the Illinois Health Information Exchange, or ILHIE. Stationed within the Illinois Office of Health Information Technology, ILHIE is using cloud-based data management as part of its coordination of a statewide HIE, and it’s also going to coordinate data hosting and management for other Medicaid and public assistance programs provided through Department of Healthcare and Family Services. (Government Health IT recently profiled the Illinois Health Information Exchange, and other healthcare cloud pioneers, in the ebook Navigating the Cloud.)

NASCIO is also reminding state IT managers that cloud services within and among agencies can require tweaks to governance models and a quite bit of vigilance in the areas of security, data ownership, vendor arrangements, indemnification and service portfolio management.

Especially with outsourcing and contracting, NASCIO says, state agencies are being challenged with new legal issues revolving around what constitutes "due care" or "reasonable” in areas of liability and oversight.

[See also: Patient ID proofing for EHR access must be easy, HIT committees say]

Another priority issue NASCIO is watching is the use of mobile devices and mobile working, or telecommuting. State agencies are, like other employers, adapting to an increasingly wired and global economy and the rise of more remotely-based workers, made possible by advances in wireless infrastructure and “BYOD,” bring your own device.

While mobile working comes with security risks that may weigh heavy on state CIOs’ minds, especially for healthcare agencies, it may ultimately help ease budget pressures and help increase productivity among staff.

Ivan Handler, CTO at the Illinois Office of Health Information Technology and former Department of Healthcare and Family Services CIO, told Government Health IT that one of reasons the cloud has become such an affordable option for the state’s data needs is that agencies can’t quite offer the salaries necessary to attract the right IT professionals. It’s especially hard, he said, to lure talented techies from Chicago to the state capital of Springfield, a small city surrounded by farmland. The use of the cloud and mobile workplace arrangements may be starting to change that dynamic, by giving government agencies and their IT employees and bit more flexibility.