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Electronic Medical Records Transfer hits roadblock

Electronic Medical Records transfer is slowly underway

One of the most common questions of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability applicants is, “How long it will take to process the disability claim?” Another common question is, “Why does it take so long?” By far the most time-consuming part of the SSDi and SSI process is gathering medical records from a SSDI or SSI claimant’s treating doctors.Proponents of Obama Care have touted the conversion of electronic medical records as a winning component of new Health Care Reform. In fact, the use of electronic medical records has been central to the aim of overhauling health care in America. Benefits of electronic medical records include lower costs, better coordinated medical treatment and improved patient care. The SSA will also be able to substantially lower the time it will take to process disability cases, saving time and money.

A recent New York Times article, however, contends that the implementation of the program may not be as easy as first anticipated. In fact, new reports prepared by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services suggest that Medicare, which has been tasked with overseeing and managing the conversion, may not have adopted appropriate safeguards to ensure patient’s records are secure, potentially leading to abuse and fraud of the system.

Billions of dollars have been spent over the last several years to create incentives for doctors to convert their records. Incentive payments are supposed to only be given if hospitals and doctors meet specific standards for accuracy. Issues have arisen with the incentive program which mirror issues with Medicare payments for medical claims: some payments have been made to doctors and hospitals in error.

A Medicare spokesman issues a statement last week claiming that, “Protecting taxpayer dollars is our top priority and we have implemented aggressive procedures to hold providers accountable. Making a false claim is a serious offense with serious consequences and we believe the overwhelming majority of doctors and hospitals take seriously their responsibility to honestly report their performance.”

Like everything the government gets involved in there is a substantial amount of waste, even if the overall goal is a noble one. The benefits of electronic records is hard not to appreciate considering the high probability that  medical errors or waste can be lowered, but as usual the Federal Government spends taxpayer’s money with reckless abandon and lack incentives to make sure the people’s money is efficiently spent.

How much money are we talking about? Medicare expects to spend close to $7 billion over five years. So far, according to the report, “the agency has paid 74, 317 health professionals and 1,333 hospitals.” Doctors who follow the requirements and implement an electronic records system can receive up to $44,000. Hospitals could receive up to $2 million.

Watchdog Republicans in the House of Representatives have voiced concerns that incentives have been paid without adequate standardization procedures. Top leaders argue that taxpayer dollars have been squandered and paid to doctors and hospitals without sufficient results.

Good News for SSDI applicants

The good news is that if electronic medical records are fully implemented disability applicants at the very least can expect to see a substantial reduction in their wait time for SSDI and SSI benefits, although the transfer could be very costly for taxpayers.