The company, Denver-based LegiNation, takes PDF files of legislation from each state's online bill-tracking system and turns them into text, then converts the text into an XML format for display and retrieval through a service called Bill Track 50. Founder and president Karen Suhaka told InformationWeek Healthcare that the format works for all 50 states. It also provides a common look at all bills, regardless of state.
The company started in June and Bill Track 50 went live in December, 2011 according to Suhaka. Parsing of the files took months, she said, but now that the template is in place, adding and updating legislation will be easy going forward. Suhaka said that LegiNation now is adding about two states per day to Bill Track 50, and that every state should be online by the end of February.
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Bill Track 50 can perform a keyword analysis and allow for side-by-side comparison of multiple bills. Subscribers can pull a widget from Bill Track 50 and drop it into their own sites, a feature that Suhaka said differentiates her company from others.
Suhaka admitted that she was not very familiar with the healthcare industry, but she said she got up to speed quickly with a couple of simple searches. "It seems like there is a trend toward health information exchange," Suhaka said. "That was just me spending 10 minutes using the system."
Among the 20 states online at the time of the interview, Suhaka reported finding 16 pending bills related to health information exchange. She also found eight bills that addressed ICD-10 coding.
Suhaka reported that she wrote her business plan with lobbyists in mind as the target market. But as she got more involved in building the system, she found that national and state trade associations and advocacy groups were more interested in the technology because it would allow them to track state-level legislation around specific issues and receive alerts anytime there was activity on a bill they were following. "I think it's ridiculous how little we knew about state stuff," Suhaka admitted.
Suhaka said trade groups like to keep an eye on key bills across the country because states--and even the U.S. Congress--often model their own legislation on similar bills that have passed elsewhere. LegiNation built the site within an application programming interface from Pingar, a New Zealand-based company that offers keyword analysis technology through text mining and natural language processing.
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