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Professional News
Agency Boosts Campaign For Electronic Records
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 18 page 5-5

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has launched a national effort to convince physicians to switch voluntarily to electronic record submissions following a limited initial response to the program.

The SSA and Disability Determination Services (DDS), which are the state agencies that make disability determinations for SSA, began a national promotion of a program called Electronic Records Express among physician groups this summer. Although the program has been available since 2003, the physician response rate has been low enough to necessitate a concerted new outreach effort.

The program gives physicians an electronic option for submitting health and school records related to disability claims.

"When you receive a request for health or school records or other information about a person who has applied for Social Security disability benefits, you can choose the method of sending the information that works best for you—online to Social Security's secure Web site or by fax to your state DDS or to Social Security," according to a statement the agency sent to APA.

Adoption of electronic record submissions is expected to save the SSA significant money and reduce processing times, said SSA officials, although the agency did not provide specific estimates.

Regulators in the Government Accountability Office have criticized what they describe as "lengthy" wait times for the processing of disability applications and concerns regarding the cost of disability programs.

The SSA operates the Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security Income programs, which are the two largest federal cash-benefits programs for people with disabilities. The disabilities covered by the benefits are those that result in the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a severe physical or mental impairment that is medically determinable and is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.

In Fiscal 2005, the SSA made payments of approximately $126 billion to about 12.8 million beneficiaries and their families.

"Electronic processes can 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," said SSA Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart in a statement about the program.

The free program allows physicians to submit patient records through a secure Web site using file formats such as: .doc, .wpd, .zip, .jpg, .bmp, .txt, .xls, .pdf, .tiff, and .tif. instead of specialty software, the program only requires compatible Internet browsers that are in wide use.

The submission of records electronically is not mandatory, and the agency will continue to accept faxed submissions.

The Electronic Records Express is a part of the Disability Service Improvement initiative.

More information on the program is posted at<www.ssa.gov/ere/index.html>. Physicians can register to use the site after they obtain a user ID and password from a DDS professional relations officer for their state. More information is available by e-mail at electronic-records-express@ssa.gov or phone at (866) 691-3061.

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