SSA Expanding Health IT

The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General in May released the report “Social Security Administration Expansion of Health Information Technology” The report discusses the challenges involved in implementing a large IT project and how to the SSA continues to expand health IT.

In general, SSA has partnered with 38 healthcare organizations, reported on health IT partners in 30 states and the District of Columbia, and has identified ways to improve health IT case processing and data analytics.

According to the report as of February 2015, four partners are expanding, 12 organizations are in various stages of becoming health IT partners, 68 organizations are in discussions to become health IT partners, and ten healthcare system vendors are working with SSA on interoperability

Today, to make disability assessments, SSA uses the “Medical Evidence Gathering and Analysis through Health IT” (MEGAHIT) system to automatically obtain electronic records from SSA’s partners.

Each year, SSA requests over 15 million health records to decide disability claims. According to SSA, in FY 2014, MEGAHIT processed 193,277 requests and received 131,380 health IT records. After SSA electronically requests and receives a disability applicant’s health record, the claim is transferred to the disability case processing site within minutes

The report reviews the use of health IT utilizing MEGAHIT and two specific health IT partners were studied that included Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts and MedVirginia

To do the review, SSA identified 215,176 individuals with electronic disability folders. At that point, 275 cases were randomly selected for detailed analysis. Feedback was requested from five Disability Determination Services (DDS) and SSA staff met to discuss the issues in detail.

It was found after reviewing 275 cases that MEGAHIT received EHRs 19 days faster than traditional records and that SSA was able to make disability decision on average 21 days faster in the five cases when only health IT records were requested.

According to Robert Beckley, Interface Architect at Beth Israel, “Originally, it took about six weeks to make a disability determination, but now it takes about nine minutes. Today we are able to handle 10 to 20 requests a day.

Dr. John Halamka, CIO Beth Israel, reports “The Social Security’s MEGAHIT project is a perfect example of how technology can improve the patient experience and also reduce administration overhead.”

Med Virginia the second partner studied in the report, has shown impressive results. According to Michael Matthews, CEO of MedVirginia, “The partnership to implement the large IT project soon generated more than $6,000,000 in enhanced revenue for MedVirginia’s partner the Bon Secours Richmond Health System. This was driven by improved insurance coverage accompanying expedited disability determinations.”

The report also points out that there are several challenges to expanding health IT at SSA. These include the need for more funding, lack of compatibility and interoperability of health record systems, and the volume and availability of health records that must be processed.

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