AAOS Bulletin - August, 2006

SSA urges use of electronic medical records for disability claims

In 2006, the Social Security Administration (SSA) expects more than 2.5 million Americans to file for disability benefits. To improve the accuracy, consistency and timeliness of decision making throughout the process, the SSA and its partner agencies—the Disability Determination Services (DDS) in each state—are moving to electronic handling of disability claims.

Orthopaedic surgeons can help ensure more accurate and timely decisions for their patients by sharing medical records electronically with Social Security and its partner agencies.

To help provide more timely service to patients seeking disability benefits—and, ultimately, Medicaid or Medicare benefits—the SSA asks that medical providers also adopt electronic processes whenever DDS requests medical records about patients.

If they are not already doing so, the SSA urges providers to submit medical records electronically. The SSA recommends that medical providers:

• Fax medical records toll-free day or night.

• Use an Internet connection and the agency’s secure Web site to send individual patient records quickly and easily.

• Use a scanner and an Internet connection to send batched patient files to the agency’s secure Web site.

Submitting electronic records benefits both patients and providers. It can reduce costs for the photocopying, paper, toner, postage and staff time required for paper submissions.Since electronic submission of evidence was launched in 2003, the medical community has responded to 15 million requests for medical evidence each year.

Some providers have even entered into agreements with Social Security to facilitate requests for medical evidence. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is now using standard record extracts of veterans’ medical records and sending them electronically. The VA has endorsed this new process.

The Social Security form used to authorize disclosure of information is fully HIPAA compliant. Providers can—and should—accept a photocopy or facsimile of the authorization form to maximize efficiency and reduce patient wait time for benefits.

“Electronic processes make it quicker and easier for medical records to be transferred securely, eliminate mail time and automate handling so that disability applicants will receive a decision sooner,” says Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart. “Health care providers save resources by submitting patient medical records electronically.”

If you would like to register to begin using Social Security’s secure Web site to send medical records, or would like more information about the options available for submitting medical records to Social Security electronically, e-mail electronic-records-express@ssa.gov or call toll-free (866) 691-3061.

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