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DirectTrust PHI Sharing Increases 24% Since End of 2015

There has been a record number of DirectTrust transactions, PHI sharing across Direct networks, and Direct users, recent data shows.

PHI sharing across Direct networks increased, the company announced

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- The number of healthcare organizations using DirectTrust interoperability tools in 2016, including PHI sharing options, has seen significant growth, according to recent DirectTrust numbers.

There were more than 98 million Direct message transactions between Direct addresses in 2016, the company said in a release. Since DirectTrust began in 2013, there have now been more than 165 million transactions.

Additionally, more than 33.5 million Direct messages were transmitted in Q4 2016.

The number of trusted Direct addresses utilizing PHI sharing on the DirectTrust network also increased 24 percent, totaling more than 1.36 million since 2015 ended.

DirectTrust President and CEO David. C. Kibbe, MD MBA explained that this shows the continued growth of Direct as a “national platform for interoperability among users of hundreds of different vendors' EHR, PHR and other IT products.”

"As EHRs become virtually ubiquitous in hospitals and medical practices, Direct messaging adds value by virtue of being 'plugged in' and able to replace fax and mail for all sorts of transactions, without the end user having to leave his or her EHR system,” Kibbe said. “It's important that Direct be convenient and work flow friendly.”

While the main reasons to use Direct are for care coordination, and clinical messaging for referrals and alerts, Kibbe maintained that Direct messaging is increasingly being used for administrative and research data communications.

“As demand for Direct grows, vendors are increasingly improving their usability for Direct, and adding file formats that can be shared as attachments,” he stated. “I am really encouraged to see those 'last mile' types of problems being addressed across the entire industry."

DirectTrust growth was also reported in October 2016, with the number of healthcare organizations connected to DirectTrust health information service providers (HISPs) and using Direct exchange up 62 percent from the previous year.

Year over year, the number of trusted Direct addresses necessary in sharing sensitive health data and Direct exchange transactions increased by 37 percent. The number of transactions also grew by 64 percent to approximately 22 million.

Reliant Medical Group's Larry Garber, MD told HealthITInteroperability.com in a 2016 interview that Direct is benefitting both Reliant providers and patients.

"It's one thing to let us know where the patient is. It's another thing to actually make sure that the patient gets better care at that point," Garber said.

"Instead of getting notified that our patient is in the emergency room and then having to manually call the emergency room and fax something there," Garber added, "we realized that we could get our electronic health record to automatically send the patient summary right to the emergency room using Direct messaging and have it load directly into their electronic health record, right into their EHR system, and make it available instantly for the emergency room physician to help improve the care that our patients get."

Aiding the healthcare interoperability push through secure exchange of data is a top priority for DirectTrust, and is a key aspect to overall healthcare cybersecurity.

In December 2016, DirectTrust made four recommendations to President Donald Trump’s Transition Team.

Encryption, authentication, and identity management are all critical requirements to help policy and operational efforts in creating strong cybersecurity measures in healthcare, DirectTrust stated.

"We've made significant progress in the areas of increased electronic health records (EHR) adoption and interoperability during the past four years,” Kibbe said in a statement at the time. “Our hope is that the momentum established to this point will continue under the new administration."

Appointing a strong Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) leader must also be a focus area for the new administration, along with EHR adoption and interoperability, according to DirectTrust.

“New policies should build on existing technology for interoperable exchange already integrated into EHRs under the 2014 Certification Program, such as Direct Messaging, eHealthExchange, IHE-XDR and the CCDA, while supporting development of new technologies and evolving content standards, like FHIR,” wrote DirectTrust. 

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