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Seniors

April 20, 2009

Social Security now using Nationwide Health Information Network

In March, Social Security became the first government agency to use the Nationwide Health Information Network. This initiative will cut the time it takes Social Security to get medical records — from weeks or months to only minutes — for people who apply for disability benefits. Initially, this will affect a small number of the people applying for disability benefits, but it will gradually expand.

This year, Social Security will handle almost 3 million disability claims and make more than 15 million requests for medical records from more than 900,000 medical providers. Providers have a number of options to respond to these requests, but all require manual intervention before evidence can be entered into Social Security’s electronic disability folder.

Using the NHIN, when an applicant lists certain medical facilities as treatment sources, Social Security’s system automatically sends an electronic message to the hospital’s system requesting the medical record and providing the patient’s authorization. The hospital’s system automatically responds. Within minutes, the medical evidence is available for evaluation.

In addition, we’ve identified medical codes that match portions of 43 conditions in our medical listings. The agency’s computer system analyzes the data for these codes after receiving hospital records and alerts the disability decision-maker so the case can be processed more quickly.

We at Social Security are doing our part to make the disability determination process more efficient for those who depend on it. You can do your part, too. If you need to apply for disability benefits, do it online. You can learn about Social Security disability benefits, take advantage of our online disability planner and even apply for benefits online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. You don’t have to complete the application all in one sitting; you can take a break and log back on to complete it later without starting over. Also, you’re able to check the status of your pending application online after you’ve submitted it.

With innovative new technologies like the NHIN, medical codes and the online application, Social Security is working to reverse the growing disability backlog and reduce the time it takes to make a decision. To learn more about disability benefits, visit socialsecurity.gov and select the “disability” button along the top banner.

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