From Ohio to Mississippi: Direct Messaging of Electronic Health Records

Columbus - Imagine travelling on vacation, getting injured skiing, and then having your family doctor be able to access the x-rays and care you're receiving by a physician in another state.

Ohio is the first state in the nation to successfully send and receive health information across state lines, using Direct secure messaging, through its statewide health information exchange, CliniSync.

The Ohio Health Information Partnership announced today that the first production instance of interstate Direct messaging of electronic health records took place December 1 between physicians' offices in Lima, Ohio, and Biloxi, Mississippi. CliniSync connected with the Mississippi Health Information Network (MS-HIN). A "production" instance means the exchange was live, and physician office staff used the tool to exchange real messages.

The Direct Project, developed through the National Health Information Network within the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC), is a set of standards, policies and services that enable simple, secure transport of health information between healthcare participants, such as physicians, hospitals and labs. Essentially, this is a secure, encrypted email that serves as an alternative to mailing and faxing patient information.

"We at ONC are excited to see this first productive use of Direct protocols for the exchange of health information between two states," said Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

"This is just one small step in our journey to connect medical and health care professionals across the nation, so that all Americans can receive the best health care possible," Dr. Mostashari said. "We know electronic health records can save time, money and lives. But most of all, we know doctors can better coordinate the care they give to patients when they can electronically share that information at the right time, in the right place."

In northwest Ohio, Direct messaging of electronic health records occurred between a physician's office and a healthcare facility. James T. Bowlus, M.D., Inc., a single family practice in Elida, and Health Partners of Western Ohio in Lima, a federally qualified health center, successfully sent and received messages between each another. Both are part of the West Central Ohio Health Information Exchange, the first group of hospitals and health facilities to go "live" with CliniSync in Ohio.

Both the practices also participate in the Ohio Department of Health's Patient Centered Medical Home project. Over the course of 20 minutes, each successfully sent four Direct messages to the other medical provider. The intent behind the electronic exchange of health records is that doctors and other healthcare professionals can better care for a patient when they have all of that patient's information at their fingertips.

"This is a successful breakthrough in Ohio's ability to electronically connect medical providers in rural areas," said Fred Richards, CIO, COO of the Ohio Health Information Partnership. "That ability to share records in remote, underserved areas in two different states goes straight to the heart of this grant program."

Ohio received $14.8 million in federal grant funding through the Office of the National Coordinator of HIT as part of a nationwide push by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services toward the electronic exchange of health information among doctors, labs, hospitals and health professionals within each of the 50 states and ultimately, across the nation. The Partnership selected Medicity, Inc., as its vendor to create a platform for CliniSync. Mississippi also uses this vendor.

The Ohio Health Information Partnership has 26 contracts now signed with hospitals and health systems for CliniSync services. To date, more than 5,900 physicians and eligible professionals have signed up with the Ohio Health Information Partnership for free services to help them prepare their offices for use of electronic health records. Ohio's seven regional partners will continue to provide these services as well as help physicians reach "meaningful use," a federal requirement that allows them to receive Medicaid or Medicare incentives if they use electronic records in a meaningful way that improves patient care, such as e-prescribing, providing public health information and creating reports that show trends in care.

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Background Information:

About the Ohio Health Information Partnership

The Ohio Health Information Partnership is a nonprofit, state-designated entity responsible for establishing regional extension centers to assist physicians and hospitals with information technology and for creating the infrastructure for a health information exchange in the state. Ohio has received $44,146,199 in federal funding including $14,872,199 for the health information exchange (CliniSync), $28.5 million for regional extension centers and $774,000 for critical access hospitals. The State of Ohio contributed $8 million when The Partnership first formed. The Partnership includes the Ohio State Medical Association, Ohio Osteopathic Association, Ohio Hospital Association, BioOhio and the State of Ohio. The partnership is funded through the Office of the National Coordinator, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, grant numbers 90RC0012 and 90HT0024. Visit the Ohio Health Information Partnership at