The ARRA is helping the Social Security Administration (SSA) expand its efforts to advance the National Health Information Network. After a successful year testing the National Health Information Network with MedVirginia- a regional health information organization serving Virginia- and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the SSA is embarking on a 24 million dollar project to incorporate the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and the Dept. of Justice into its expanded health network. This interoperability would allow the SSA to more quickly process disability applications submitted by veterans.

Jim Borland, special adviser for health information technology for the SSA, has said that since the exchange with MedVirginia started in February, the organization reduced the average time it takes to process disability applications from 83 to 32 days.

This has the potential to greatly improve the efficiency of the SSA, as the agency sends more than 15 million requests each year to physicians and hospitals for medical records of disability applicants, and the number of applications for fiscal year 2010 is expected to increase by 27% from 2008. This will save the SSA staff time and money, but will also assist physician offices because their employees won’t need to find, scan and send paper files.

The SSA has partnered with Microsoft to test HealthVault personal health record in the disability claims process. Microsoft HealthValut is becoming a leading resource for PHRs in both the private and public sectors. The Mayo Clinic and New York Presbyterian Hospital also utilize the HealthVault applications.