ONC: Nearly 30 statewide HIEs using Direct Project

Statewide health information exchange grantees in nearly 30 states are using the Direct Project clinical messaging protocol, and a dozen more are slated to inaugurate Direct this summer, according to a recent Health IT Buzz blog post.

According to ONC project officer Brett Andriesen, Direct is available to all hospitals and physicians in these states, although an accompanying map indicates that the protocol still is being piloted in five of the states.

The states where Direct is not live are concentrated in the eastern half of the country. None of the northeastern states, for example, have gone live yet.

According to the post, "several thousand providers have signed up for the Direct Project services, ranging from primary care to behavioral health providers, specialists, and public health professionals. Seven states--Wisconsin, Delaware, Arkansas, Illinois, California, Florida, and West Virginia--already have signed up 300 or more providers."

Andriesen gives a few examples of how Direct is being used. For instance:

  • In Florida, hospitals are using Direct to send newborn hearing screening test results to a state agency, which sends back confirmation of the state-mandated screening tests by the same route.
  • In California, Redwood MedNet, an HIE in northern California, and St. Joseph Health System in Orange County are collaborating on a project to use Direct to improve care coordination for newborns
  • In Guam, the Guam HIE and the Department of Veterans Affairs are employing Direct to refer patients to providers for mammograms and are looking to expand the use of the protocol to all referrals.

ONC is part of a public-private consortium that developed Direct in 2010 and rolled it out early in 2011. The secure messaging protocol uses the familiar SMTP Internet protocol to exchange clinical messages among trusted parties. Many observers consider it an electronic replacement for the ubiquitous fax.

A number of statewide and regional HIEs have embraced Direct messaging as a way to jump-start online information exchanges among providers, not all of whom have electronic health records. Some established HIEs--like MedAllies in New York--use Direct for referrals to specialists and reports to referring physicians. Providers also can use Direct to exchange clinical summaries to meet a Meaningful Use requirement, ONC notes.

To learn more:
- read the Health IT Buzz blog post

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