Regenstrief Institute to help improve disability determination through health information technology

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Regenstrief Institute has been awarded a Recovery Act contract to help the U.S. Social Security Administration and Indiana healthcare providers shorten and improve the process of making disability case determinations through automation. Work is scheduled to begin March 31.

The process of acquiring medical information for an SSA disability claim involves numerous requests to multiple healthcare providers treating the individual seeking disability benefits. This process can take weeks or even months following an application for benefits. Physician offices, hospitals and others health care provider must gather the individual's recent medical information and submit it via fax or U.S. mail.

The Regenstrief Institute, an international leader in heath information technology, created and operates the Indiana Network for Patient Care (INPC), a secure statewide health information exchange that providers use to help improve the quality, safety and efficiency of care that their patients receive. Improving the disability determination process complements other functions of the INPC, including surveillance for influenza outbreaks and access to a patient's diverse medical records when providing emergency care.

"We will leverage the capability of the INPC to quickly and efficiently collect the information requested electronically by SSA, with the specific authorization of the person applying for disability benefits, and securely transfer it to the government so the disability decision process can be completed more rapidly. This will make that process more efficient - both because it will be faster and also because the medical data compiled will be more complete. It also will take the time and expense of going to many different providers, assembling the necessary records and filling out forms off the shoulders of patients and decrease the need for providers to search for and send records manually," said Brian Dixon, MPA, project manager for Regenstrief's SSA contract.

To effectively make decisions regarding applications for disability, the SSA needs the same kind of medical information that physicians utilize when making diagnoses, treatment, and referral decisions. Healthcare providers in Indiana rely on the INPC to securely and privately share clinical data which is utilized daily to support healthcare services throughout Indiana.

"Facilitating the processing of patients' disability claims is another example of how healthcare providers throughout Indiana have worked together with the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana Health Information Exchange to ensure that their patients' healthcare information is used to enhance their care," said J. Marc Overhage, M.D., Ph.D., director of medical informatics at the Regenstrief Institute, Regenstrief Professor of Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and president and C.E.O. of the Indiana Health Information Exchange.

Disability benefits determination is a large-scale process. The SSA expects to receive more than 3.3 million disability benefits applications in fiscal year 2010, a 27 percent increase over the 2008 fiscal year. Annually, more than 15 million requests for medical records are sent to healthcare providers.

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The Regenstrief Institute has been an international leader in the development, implementation and evaluation of health information technology and health information standards for over three decades. Regenstrief investigators are leaders in the development of clinical data standards and health care system interoperability. The institute is located on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Indianapolis is the most healthcare wired metropolitan area in the country.

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