In the late 1980s, the Wyoming Department of Health Maternal Health Services and Women, Infant, and Child (WIC) programs struggled to cope with the unintended consequences of their document-based delivery system. Inefficient operation was costing the department time and money. Of greater concern was the discovery that WIC supplemental Food Stamps were being traded for drugs, alcohol, guns and other non-prescribed goods. In this same period, European government agencies as well as domestic private sector organizations were transitioning away from their similarly antiquated document-base systems and adopting Smartcard technology to create paperless, computer-oriented systems.
A Smartcard is a means of delivering program benefits and services using a microchip imbedded in a plastic card, eliminating the need to distribute and monitor the use of traditional paper checks or service coupons. In 1990, the Wyoming Department of Health began using Smartcard technology to deliver WIC supplemental foods, Food Stamp benefits, and maternal and child health services. Each participating family is issued one Smartcard which allows for the purchase of program approved foods at participating retail outlets. In 1991 alone, approximately 720 program beneficiaries used their Smartcards to buy subsidized foods at one of four participating grocery stores.
The Smartcard also serves as a portable health record, and can be used to access immunization services, child health services, prenatal care, Medicaid eligibility consultations, and drug use review. With a portable health record embedded in a Smartcard, families are afforded flexibility to access care at multiple locations. Access to the card's records and services is granted by use of a Personal Identification Number (PIN), controlled by the cardholder. The use of this technology for the delivery of health-related services is a first in the United States.