Kaiser, Social Security to pilot records exchange

Large-scale Nationwide Health Information Network effort aims to speed up benefit claims process
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A partnership between the Social Security Administration and Kaiser Permanente should speed up processing of disability claims for Kaiser members.

The two organizations are launching a pilot program to exchange records--with patient consent--using the Nationwide Health Information Network. The pilot is to begin in the next month and involve several Kaiser facilities in the San Diego area.

The Social Security Administration has similar partnerships with 13 smaller providers using the NwHIN, but this represents its first large-scale exchange. Kaiser's 8.9 million patients make its population roughly equal to that of Sweden. Social Security requests about 70,000 patient files from Kaiser Permanente each year, according to an SSA statement.

"I am confident that people will look back at today's announcement as the most significant improvement in our disability determination process since the program began in 1956. In today's world it makes no sense for us to chase down paper records on an individual basis," Michael J. Astrue, commissioner of Social Security, said in the statement. 

The two organizations stressed that no information will be exchanged without patient consent and that security will be a top priority.

Kaiser began a similar exchange program with the VA in 2010, also piloting it in San Diego. It allowed benefit determinations that previously took weeks or months to be done in seconds.

The NwHIN provides a technology "gateway" to support standards and a legal framework for the secure exchange of health information. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is taking comments on a governing mechanism for the network through Friday.

Meanwhile, a recent report looking at value-based healthcare in 12 countries pointed to Kaiser as an example in the United States for its progress in tracking outcomes and in creating incentives for clinicians to use best practices identified through outcomes research.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser announcement
- here's the SSA announcement

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