Social Security Administration: Claims move from months to minutes

Washington (DC) and Armonk (NY) – On Friday, IBM, MedVirginia and the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) announced an electronic medical records exchange system to be used in speeding up the process of granting disability benefits “from months to minutes”. The project is part of the $19 billion granted by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“Now is the time to expand the usage and functionality of electronic health records,” said Michael Matthews, CEO of MedVirginia. “This significant milestone demonstrates that disparate health systems across the U.S. can securely connect and exchange health information in order to enhance the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of patient healthcare.”

The project began four months ago and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) Cooperative. It represents the first health information exchange between a regional health information organization and a U.S. federal agency. Some of IBM’s COTS (canned, off-the-shelf) software is used to handle the paperwork to electronics conversion which allows the great speedup.

According to the press release, “The goal of the NHIN is to enable secure access to healthcare data and real time information sharing and exchange of healthcare data among physicians, patients, hospitals, laboratories and pharmacies, and other stakeholders, regardless of the location or application.”

The SSA administers America’s major income support programs for the elderly, disabled, and their dependents through the retirement, disability, and survivors insurance programs, as well as the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. It is the largest independent federal agency, and will pay $615 billion in Social Security benefits to over 51 million beneficiaries, and provide more than $43 billion in assistance to over seven million SSI recipients with limited income and assets.

Other countries, like England, have been adopting fully electronic medical health record systems over the past several years. These systems would allow not only SSA to benefit, but also individuals who visit several healthcare professionals or offices. Rather than filling out form after form, their electronic medical records would follow them, being updated by each healthcare specialist they see. The England program is scheduled to be completed in 2013, having begun in 2003.

See IBM’s press release.