What is SEMHIE, and How Can It Help Disability Claimants?

Submitted by Chris on

The South East Michigan Health Information Exchange, based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has recently announced that it has been officially tested, approved, and is now functioning as part of the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange.

This information exchange network, known as SEMHIE, was made possible through $2 million dollar contract with the Social Security Administration. In a nationwide effort, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the SSA has been actively striving to increase the efficiency of information exchange for the purpose of determining claimant eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits.

In the past, there was not much compatibility between systems used by various SSA offices from state to state, causing errors and delays in exchanging medical information about potential beneficiaries, and further slowing the backlog of Social Security Disability cases which needed to be determined.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year, SSA Commissioner Astrue provided for $17.4 million in contracts to 15 healthcare network information systems to provided systems to directly transmit medical records to the SSA. His goal was to decrease the average wait time for claims from 457 days down to 1-2 weeks, and transmit medical information between networks in under 5 hours.

The SEMHIE is the largest of the remaining 12 contracts which have yet to be completed between the SSA and various information networks across the country, and is slated to reach completing in December of 2011. SEMHIE will make possible the communication and integration of the systems of two large hospital networks in Michigan, and further affect smaller healthcare networks as a result, dramatically increasing the rate of disability claims processing in the state.

Michigan residents will be seeing more federal funding for Social Security Disability coming into the state, benefiting those who are in need of the assistance and consequently the state’s struggling economy.

Decreasing the processing time for Social Security Disability claims across the country will not only affect the people who are waiting, sometimes up to 2 years, for the benefits they need to survive; it will also benefit taxpayers in the form of streamlined expenses and possible tax cuts as the SSA is able to more efficiently make use of the funds which support its programs.

Electronic information exchange is the way of the future and is quickly transforming the way the SSA processes claims, enabling them to process more claims in a shorter amount of time and allowing them to gradually decrease the total number of claims waiting to be reviewed.

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