One of the most important tasks that I have as a lawyer in preparing a Social Security disability case is gathering a client’s list of doctors and medications. This information is essential because I order all records from the contact information my client provides to me. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) tries to do the same thing, except instead of obtaining all records, they will only order recent records. Still, they will attempt to order the medical records from the information that is given to them. The problem is that not everyone has the information available when filling out the Disability Report for an appeal (SSA Form 3441). I personally take a lot of time when gathering the information and filling out this report. Sometimes it takes more than one meeting or conversation with a client to fill out this form. I find the time well worth it because I rely on it later to obtain all of the medical records my client might have that are relevant to his or her case.
In an attempt to make the record gathering easier, the Social Security Administration recently announced that it has entered into an agreement with Microsoft to test the use of Microsoft’s HealthVault application in the disability process. “HealthVault is a free online service that enables people to gather, store and manage their families’ health information, and share that information with their physicians and healthcare providers.” The same type of information that a user provides to HealthVault is the same type of information that the SSA collects when adjudicating a disability application.
The SSA and Microsoft are developing a prototype that will connect the two organizations. It is expected that will be available later this year. Well, not wanting to wait, I decided to test out what exists so I signed up for HealthVault. Of course one of the inital considerations I had when signing up was the fact that I was disclosing my personal information to Microsoft. There are some privacy warnings to read during the sign-up process. The benefit to HealthVault is that it allows you to store all of your health information in one place. It is only as good as the information as you enter into it, so if you enter all of your doctors’ information and contact information, you will have it all in one place.
I believe the system will ultimately be useful to claimants because it will enable people to organize their information better and will help the SSA obtain a more complete record. As for me, it has already helped. I now have all of my doctors’ contact information stored in one place. Although I do it for my clients every day, I had never taken the time to do it for myself. I now feel more organized.