The Social Security Administration and Veteran Affairs has teamed up with The eHealth Exchange, an initiative of The Sequoia Project on a new Health IT initiative that enables all Social Security disability case processing sites to receive medical records electronically from all VA facilities. As part of the new health IT initiative, Veterans will receive a faster decision on their Social Security disability claim, speeding them and their dependents through this new process. Both agencies will save time and money with an automatic request through the eHealth Exchange.
The new Health IT program was tested successfully at Social Security locations around the country. Today on Veteran’s Day, November 11, the eHealth Exchange is now live, nationally, to all Social Security disability case processing sites. Social Security requests nearly 15 million medical records annually from healthcare providers and organizations to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. Medical documentation is essential to make a disability determination. Historically, the agency obtained medical records through a manual process (mail, fax, secure mail). This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain medical records electronically without human intervention.
The largest health data sharing network of its kind, the eHealth Exchange network includes participation from nearly 50% of all U.S. hospitals, four federal agencies, more than 31,000 medical groups, more than 3,400 dialysis centers, and more than 8,300 pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS MinuteClinic. The eHealth Exchange is already the principal way that private sector healthcare providers are able share health information with federal agencies to support patient care and increasingly between and among federal agencies.
This partnership adds the VA to Social Security’s more than 50 other Health IT partners, including the Department of Defense, in approximately 7,000 facilities across the United States providing electronic health records. Social Security’s goal is to continue expanding the number of healthcare organizations and federal agencies providing electronic health records within a safe and secure environment.
“VA is currently improving quality of life by enabling Veterans to share their health information with federal partners and integrating their data into a safe and secure health-related consumer application,” said Dr. David Shulkin, Under Secretary for Health of the Department of Veterans Affairs in a statement. “Currently, when eligible Veterans apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits the average wait time for Social Security to receive paper records from VA can take months; this partnership allows Social Security and VA to share the Veteran’s health information electronically in minutes. The Social Security and VA partnership allows VA to continue to be a leader in interoperability efforts among federal partners while improving overall quality of life for our Veteran patients.”
Being able to share health records with non-military health facilities is critical to effectively care for military personnel and their families. This is illustrated by the fact that in 2015, roughly one-third of outpatient and 40% of inpatient care for MHS beneficiaries was provided by private, non-military care providers. Approximately one-third of MHS prescriptions were filled in the private sector as well.