Just days following our CommonWell Fall Summit, where more than a hundred folks from our member companies came together to celebrate our past successes and work on our promising future, I am pleased to announce our 34th member of the Alliance – the Social Security Administration.

As this is our first government agency to join CommonWell, we asked them to share their thoughts on why they felt it was important to become a member of CommonWell Health Alliance.

Q – For those not as familiar with the SSA, can you provide a brief overview of your organization and describe the challenge you are trying to solve?

A –The Social Security Administration is one of the largest disability programs in the world, requesting over 15 million medical records from almost every healthcare provider to make decisions on over three million disability claims annually.  We are leveraging health IT to more quickly obtain the medical records needed to support disability determinations, and more efficiently manage that information.  In August 2008, we developed a system to support this effort and, since then, have demonstrated the capability to reduce the time it takes us to obtain and process medical records.  Medical documentation is essential for us to make a disability determination.  By leveraging the power of health IT to interoperate with Health Information Exchanges and healthcare organizations, Social Security has not only seen improvements in the time to process a disability claim, but value has been seen by Health Information Exchanges, healthcare organizations and the patient.

The amount of time it takes us to complete a disability claim will continue to decrease as the number of treating sources exchanging information using health IT increases.  We continue to build upon the success by increasing our health IT partnerships and expanding current partnerships.

Q – Why are you becoming a member of CommonWell Health Alliance?

A – Social Security has been exploring how to leverage CommonWell to expand interoperability with more healthcare organizations and providers to support our disability determination process.  We have been a member of the eHealth Exchange (formerly known as the Nationwide Health Information Network) since its inception and Social Security was the first Federal agency to interoperate over the Exchange. As of October 2015, we have partnered with 48 healthcare organizations with over 7,000 facilities in 33 States and the District of Columbia.

We have been discussing a potential use case and pilot among Social Security, Carequality and CommonWell that would enhance national interoperability.

Q – How can CommonWell help address your challenge (current or future needs)?

A –CommonWell Health Alliance has the potential to widen our interoperability reach to more healthcare organizations and providers at a national level.  Our membership will give us a voice with the Alliance to discuss our requirements and the value we bring to healthcare organizations, providers, and patients.

Healthcare organizations have seen multiple benefits by using Health IT to share electronic health information with us.

  1. Payment of medical evidence is automated.
  2. Healthcare providers or organizations obtain operational savings through the automation of the request and response process for medical information.
  3. Healthcare providers or organizations have the potential to recover costs associated with uncompensated care.


Nick Knowlton, vice president, business development – Brightree, serves as the CommonWell Membership Committee chair.