Southeast Michigan Health Information Exchange Awarded $3 Million Electronic Medical Records Contract From U.S. Social Security Administration

Jun 07, 2010, 08:10 ET from SEMHIE

DETROIT, June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The Southeast Michigan Health Information Exchange announced today that it has won a $2,988,000 contract for an electronic medical records initiative from the Social Security Administration.  This award comes to SEMHIE in partnership with its fiduciary, Southeastern Michigan Health Association and its project partners CNSI, The Object Management Group™, Computer Sciences Corporation and Oracle/Sun Microsystems.  

The funds will be used to automate the process of filing Social Security disability insurance claims in the metro Detroit region, and accelerate the process from an average of 457 days to six hours.  "Once received - decisions on these claims can be made by Social Security in days - disabled citizens will be provided with critical financial support on a more timely basis," said SEMHIE Chairman Robert Jackson, MD, an Allen Park family practice physician.  

For the last year, Social Security has been successfully testing the use of health information technology to obtain electronic medical records. Disability applications processed with electronic medical records from the test sites in Massachusetts and Virginia have significantly reduced processing times. Some decisions are now made in days, instead of weeks or months.  Social Security expects to receive more than 3.3 million applications in fiscal year 2010, a 27 percent increase over fiscal year 2008. 

Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue announced that 15 health care providers and health information exchange networks received $17.4 million in contract awards to provide electronic medical records to the agency under the program.  The funds allocated to SEMHIE represent 17.2 percent of all funds awarded nationwide under the program and almost twice as much funding than the other 14 contracts awarded.

The infrastructure of this health information exchange will provide the start of the process for the creation of a comprehensive health information exchange for southeast Michigan.  Contract funds will enable two major hospital systems that are members of SEMHIE, Henry Ford Health System and Oakwood Healthcare System, to link their systems to the Nationwide Health Information Network.  

The contract awards are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  They will require awardees, with a patient's authorization, to send SSA patient electronic medical records through the NHIN.  The NHIN, a safe and secure method for receiving access to electronic medical records over the Internet, is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services supported by multiple government agencies and private sector entities.

"Using health information technology will improve our disability programs and provide better service to the public," Commissioner Astrue said.  "We've seen a significant increase in disability applications.  To process them, the agency sends more than 15 million requests annually for medical records to health care providers.  This largely paper-based workload is generally the most time-consuming part of the disability decision process.  The use of health IT will dramatically improve the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of this process, reducing the cost of making a disability decision for both the medical community and the American taxpayer."

SEMHIE's strategic information technology partners in the SSA project include Sun Microsystems, CNSI and Computer Sciences Corporation.  These are three of the four companies which built the NHIN for the Department of Health and Human Services.  The top scientists and architects at Sun and CNSI worked with SEMHIE's experts, including Michael M. Talley, to create the solution proposed to SSA. This solution incorporates a state-of-the-art Service Oriented Architecture and advanced mapping technology based on the Model Driven Message Interoperability™ Standard of Object Management Group.

Talley, who holds the triple roles of SEMHIE's Treasurer, SSA Co-Program Manager, and a member of the board of directors, stated, "It is gratifying to receive this substantial support from the federal government to assist us bring our plans to life.  I also want to thank University Bank President and CEO Stephen Ranzini for the bank's substantial donation of in-kind assistance to SEMHIE, which made this contract from SSA possible." University Bank donated office and conference room space, as well as a substantial amount of Stephen Ranzini's time. In his role as president of the Ann Arbor Economic Development Corporation, he guided SEMHIE through its critical startup phase.

Helen Hill, SEMHIE Co-Program Manager for Public Private Initiatives, and Henry Ford Health System Director of IT Consulting and HIE, stated, "SEMHIE is pleased to partner with the Social Security Administration on this innovative project that will provide great benefit to the economically and medically distressed residents of southeast Michigan by dramatically reducing the average wait time for a decision on eligibility for disability.  This is a good first step toward achieving meaningful use under ARRA for our region's and our state's providers. Henry Ford Health System, a founding member of SEMHIE, is proud to be a project participant. This is the first of many public-private initiatives for SEMHIE as we move toward full implementation of our electronic health information exchange."

The full text announcement of the contract awards from the SSA is available at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/nhin0210-pr.htm

About Southeast Michigan Health Information Exchange

Southeast Michigan Health Information Exchange, founded in 2006, is a diverse 60+-member nonprofit multi-stakeholder consortium whose membership includes four major health systems (Henry Ford Health System, St. John Providence Health System, Oakwood Healthcare System and Trinity Health), payers, employers, physicians and other health care providers, quality organizations, safety-net providers and health care professional associations.  SEMHIE will leverage existing technologies across health care settings to improve information process flow, continuity of care and to accelerate improvement in the quality and safety of care. "By decreasing costs while improving the quality of care provided to the region's residents, SEMHIE will become a self-sustaining health information exchange serving southeast Michigan," said Dr. Jackson.  For more information, go to www.semhie.org, or contact Dr. Jackson at rjacksonwwp@gmail.com or 313.386.5500.

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