Monday, March 23, 2009

Social Security Administration pioneers standardized digital health data exchange

Click on the title to this post to link to an article at, "Social Security goes live with first federal e-health information exchange," dated March 20, 2009. The Social Security Administration uses health records to decide disability claims. Migrating from paper to electronic transmission of health records will cut the decision-making time significantly. The system is based on open source software, and is the result of a partnership between SSA and many different IT and health organizations, including Sun Microsystems, IBM, MedVirginia (a Regional Health Information Organization, or RHIO) and Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston.

More significantly, this represents the first step in developing a Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN), that was a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health technology planning.

The goal of the NHIN effort is to enable secure access to health care data and real-time information sharing among physicians, patients, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and federal agencies, such as the SSA and the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, regardless of location or the applications that are being used.

"It's been described as the local health information exchanges like MedVirginia would be like the local dial tone and the NHIN would be the long-distance carrier," MedVirginia CEO Michael Matthews said this week.

As part of the recently approved American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal government has allocated more than $19 billion for health IT, including $17 billion in incentive funding for health care providers to roll out electronic medical records systems and develop methods for sharing the information contained in them among different organizations.

The SSA and its partners built a prototype data exchange system that was put into limited production last August with Beth Israel Deaconess, to test the process of eliminating manual requests for paper-based medical records.
The article goes on to discuss other groups that will shortly benefit from this project: veterans and active duty military personnel and their families (the VA and Department of Defense are joining; the Indian Health Service; the Center for Disease Control and Prevention; National Cancer Institute; and health care providers who sign up with the MedVirginia. Wow! That's a fast roll-out.

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