The National Health Information Network and the Social Security Administration
When I first started hearing about this, I thought "oh brother, talk to me in 20 years when they have this thing in place for real". How long will it take? Who knows. But, increasingly, I find discussion of the NHIN more interesting.
Here's the gist of it all: The social security administration would like to streamline the social security disability application process by getting records faster. The hope is that a national health information network, where records can be accessed electronically, will be the ticket.
Sound far-fetched? By definition, I think it is far-fetched, as in "it will take a long time for this network to come into being. Reason? Cost. It will take a lot of money, and therefore a lot of time, to get everyone (medical treatment providers) onto this new "grid".
Here's why I think so. I went to my doctor yesterday and he took a fair amount of time explaining to me how his new medical record data system works (He knows I blog online and assume that I must, therefore, understand everything that involves a computer). Basically, he dictates his notes on a computer or PDA and they go straight into the database. If he writes a prescription using his data management system, it automatically goes right over to the pharmacy electronically. If he gives someone an ekg or a treadmill test (for suspected coronary artery problems), that information is also recorded and sent into the patient's "chart" in the database. All in all, its a wonderful system.
It was also very expensive. And, as he said, he doesn't know of a single other practice in our metro area that has it. Probably due to A) the cost and B) the extreme hassle it would take to set the system up and learn how to navigate within it.
I found his new data management system really neat. But...what about backing up data? What if it crashes and you can't access a patient's chart? what if it gets corrupted by a virus? What if, what if, what if? And I'm sure this is whats many medical practices think of when some sales guy tries to sell them this system. And then there's that nasty issue of cost. Contrary to popular myth, most family doctors don't make a ton of money. They do well enough, of course, but they don't make half of what medical specialists make. And they have a ton of overhead.
This new national health information network will not really come into being into all the thousands of medical practices in the country upgrade their internal systems of medical record keeping. And how long that will take is anyone's guess.
Having said that, though, once the NHIN comes into existence, social security disability claims and SSI disability claims may move a lot faster in the system. As a disability examiner, it was very clear to me that the major holdup on a disability application or a request for reconsideration was...the ridiculous amount of time spent waiting for medical records that had been requested (sometimes SEVERAL TIMES and sometimes months earlier).
For more info on the NHIN, read the following article (with at least one grain of salt) -
NHIN will debut at Social Security Administration
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