Social Security allocates $24M for EMRs

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) is looking to award $24 million in funding to health information exchanges, regional health information organizations, general medical service providers and specialty care providers to help automate the exchange of medical records.

The contracts will be funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and will be used to facilitate the awardees’ participation in the SSA’s Medical Evidence Gathering and Analysis through Health Information Technology program. Those facilities awarded contracts will, with a patient’s authorization, send medical records to SSA through the Nationwide Health Information Network.

The SSA is launching the $24 million initiative because it is seeing a significant increase in disability applications due to the current recession. The agency expects to receive 3.3 million such applications this year, a 27 percent increase over the number received in 2008.

Processing these applications requires the submission of millions of requests for medical records to healthcare providers and SSA is looking to make the process, which is heavily paper-bound, more efficient. For the past year the agency has been testing its IT program and has found that disability applications processed with EMRs obtained from test sites in Massachusetts and Virginia have reduced the processing time significantly.