Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SSA's Future Technology

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has established the “Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel” (FSTAP) to recommend and submit ideas to the SSA Commissioner on future systems technology and electronic services. The panel is looking down the road for the next five, ten, or twenty years and trying to determine how people will be able to interact with SSA based on available future technology.

One of the FSTAP’s sub-panels are specifically looking at how health IT can be used to help SSA handle the enormous future workload and have come to the conclusion that electronic self service will be the only possible solution to meet SSA’s needs in the coming years.

The goal is to develop an electronic customer self-service model to move transactions to the internet each year until 90 percent of the business with SSA takes place online. At the same time, the agency will have to provide channels to use for complex transactions that are not suited to online execution but also to help individuals that cannot or will not use technology. Perhaps the solution would be to set up government service centers to help deal with complex issues or to provide video kiosks that will also help move customers to an electronic self-service platform.

The most common tools that will be used to access the internet in the future will be the smart phone and mobile devices. So the thinking is that in designing online applications, SSA should support mobile devices and be prepared to convert internet applications to these platforms while simultaneously maintaining the current platforms for the PC. One of the most important goals would be to develop a new prototype and then at that point, produce systems to distribute benefits via cell phones.

Simply handling the disability claims backlog submitted to SSA is very challenging. It is a fact that when disability claims are denied and when the claims are appealed, a great deal of study and human judgment is required however human judgment is difficult to automate. In addition, very often, the claimant fails to identify all of their medical conditions and sometimes they do not recall or supply all of the medical information needed resulting in an initial denial.

In the not so distant future, all disability claims will require that electronic medical records be used to supply all of the information needed since ultimately the use of electronic records will make the initial determination go faster and reduce the number of appeals. Another way to handle disability claims faster would be to implement a video capability for disability claimants at field offices and for those individuals at home that have cameras on their PCs.

In the next one to ten years, futurists are predicting that SSA will use smart phones with biometric identification, use email and social networking to reach 300 million users, provide a national ID card, electronic records adoption rates will reach 70 percent by 2016, SSA services will be reorganized and centralized, and life vaults will enable every user to have all of their information on their lives including their medical records on record by the year 2020.