Social Security to fund $24 million in contracts for EMRs

By Diana Manos
04:54 PM

Social Security administrators have set aside $24 million for contracts to provide electronic medical records to improve the efficiency of its disability programs.

Michael Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, said the agency is looking for healthcare providers, provider networks and health information exchanges to participate in its Medical Evidence Gathering and Analysis through Health Information Technology program.

Astrue saidf health IT will improve the efficiency of a process which is largely paper-bound. For nearly a year, he said, Social Security has been testing health IT to obtain electronic medical records. Disability applications processed with electronic medical records from test sites in Massachusetts and Virginia have significantly reduced processing times, he said.

"With these competitive contracts, Social Security continues to be a leader in the use of health IT to improve service to the American public," Astrue said. "This technology will greatly improve the speed and consistency of our disability decisions."

The contract opportunities announced Friday are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They will require awardees, with a patient's authorization, to send Social Security electronic medical records through the Nationwide Health Information Network. The NHIN, considered by the federal government to be a safe and secure method for receiving instantaneous access to electronic medical records, is an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services and is supported by multiple government agencies and private sector entities.

Social Security reports a significant increase in disability applications as a result of the current recession. The agency expects to receive more than 3.3 million applications in fiscal year 2010, a 27 percent increase over FY 2008. To process these applications, the agency sends more than 15 million requests for medical records to healthcare providers.