Social Security makes business case for interoperable EHRs

By Patty Enrado
02:25 PM

Early results of the collaboration between the Social Security Administration and MedVirginia, Virginia’s regional health information organization, demonstrate the business value for healthcare information technology, said Jim Borland, special adviser for healthcare IT at Social Security.

Social Security and MedVirginia began data exchange in February.

Social Security benefits, and so do its state agency partners that assist in the disability determination process, Borland said. More importantly, with regard to health IT adoption, healthcare providers benefit from a reduction of administrative costs associated with pulling patient data and the potential for a reduction in their cost for uncompensated and charity care.

"Because we can make disability determinations faster, we can get our claimants access to Medicare and Medicaid health insurance faster, which reduces uncompensated care from a provider's perspective," Borland explained. "We view this as a strong business case all the way around for folks to join in partnership with us to use interoperable EHRs (electronic health records)."

While Borland stressed that three months' worth of data is not enough to derive conclusive ROI, early numbers are compelling. Between the go-live date of Feb. 28 and May 8, Social Security, through the Virginia Disability Determination Services (DDS), made 421 automated requests to MedVirginia. In 333 cases, the Virginia DDS received "substantial" medical evidence from MedVirginia, he said.

"That percentage is very high as compared to what we would expect from the general population of medical providers from whom we request medical information, Borland said. "It's a very good response rate." Marty Prahl, healthcare IT architect for Lockheed Martin, a partner of Social Security, noted, "The medical information coming back in the form of a continuity of care document has provided tremendous value to disability examiners who review the information for disability claims."

FROM weeks to minutes

A key benefit from requesting and receiving medical evidence in an automated, electronic form using business rules is the reduction of the six-to-eight week timeframe of the traditional manual process to "a matter of minutes," Borland said. While a normal mean processing time for a case in the Virginia DDS is about 84 days, in cases where electronic medical records were received the mean processing time is 25 days, he said.

The automated process has led to an improvement in service to claimants. "They're getting decisions on their claims faster," he said. "There is certainly a quality of service improvement as a result of this project."