Social Security says test proves benefits of health data exchange

The office started sharing information to expedite determination of disability benefits.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted June 24, 2009

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

The U.S. Social Security Administration says it has already demonstrated the business value of a national health information exchange through the test run it's doing in collaboration with MedVirginia, a regional health information exchange in central Virginia.

The two started exchanging data in February to expedite disability benefit approvals. By using the data exchange to receive medical records that can help determine eligibility for disability benefits, the SSA says the approval process has been reduced to an average of 32 days from 83 days.

A handful of cases were determined within a day of being received, said Jim Borland, special adviser for health IT for the SSA.

"That just doesn't happen," he said.

Not only does the real-time exchange of information reduce staff time on the SSA's end, it can also help physician practices and hospitals save time and staff resources, too, Borland said. Because it can eat up time to retrieve patient files for the SSA, the agency pays practices and hospitals an administrative fee -- which varies by geographic location -- to cover retrieval costs.

"While we pay for those records ... we know that, given where labor costs have gone over the years, we are probably not covering most providers' costs in providing us with those records," he said.

However, once patients start receiving Medicaid, physicians likely will be paid for care that would otherwise have been uncompensated, Borland said.

The administration submitted 575 automated requests to MedVirginia between Feb. 28 and May 29. In 460 cases it received "substantial" medical evidence back that was used to establish eligibility, according to Borland.

The SSA has also started exchanging data with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and has plans to start exchanging data with the North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance and with Kaiser Permanente later this year.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn