Social Security Administration has a lot to prove with its IT systems

One doesn't necessarily put federal government agencies in the category of innovation, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) is doing some pretty forward-thinking things with healthcare IT.

Most recently, SSA put out an RFP for the implementation of an EHR system for its employees. The implementation would begin in pilot mode with six health centers and then be rolled out to its 30 health centers in late 2010. This announcement follows its agreement last month with Microsoft to use the HealthVault application in its disability determination process. And earlier in the year, SSA partnered with MedVirginia, Virginia's regional health information organization, to successfully demonstrate patient information exchange through the NHIN-Connect gateway software for faster determination of disability benefits.

Jim Borland, special advisor for Health IT at SSA, called the initiative a “strong business case” for interoperable EHRs. SSA wants to be a leader in health IT, according to Borland. What SSA is doing should be closely watched by healthcare systems and even physician practices for best practices. If you believe having an EHR will drive better clinical outcomes but are worried about ROI, SSA's work to speed disability determination provides a revenue stream for providers.

 

With the recession and unemployment driving up the number of claims, here's the perfect storm for SSA to have to streamline and automate its processes to accommodate the increased volume in the most administratively efficient way. Improving its system and process will also restore trust by the public, which is at an abysmal approval rating for the handling of claims. SSA has a lot to prove, and it's on the right road.

 

The rest of us may be along for the ride, but it should be an educational ride.