Veterans Health Administration and Indian Health Service Become First Federal Agencies to Gain Interoperability via DirectExchange

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Indian Health Service's (IHS) recent accreditation  by the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) and DirectTrust  is a major boost to improve health care coordination for millions of veterans and Native Americans, according to DirectTrust

President and CEO David C. Kibbe, MD, MBA.  DirectTrust is a health care industry alliance created by and for participants in the Direct exchange network used for secure, interoperable exchange of personal health information.

Accreditation from DirectTrust and the EHNAC recognizes excellence in security and identity of health data processing and transactions. It demonstrates compliance of the accredited entities with industry-established security controls and standards, identity proofing, HIPAA regulations, and the specifications of the Direct Project. The Direct Project specifies a simple, secure, scalable, standards-based way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet.

"ONC congratulates the Department of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Service on this important milestone.  It represents another step toward widespread, trusted, and secure health information exchange among federal agencies and the private sector.  As a long-time partner, we also congratulate Direct Trust on its continued progress to expand interoperable exchange services across the U.S. ONC would also like to recognize the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) and its participating agencies who were instrumental in shaping the federal use of Direct," said Lee Stevens, Director, Office of State Policy, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

"Bringing secure, identity-validated, Direct health information exchange to these Federal Agencies is a major milestone in this country's journey toward full national interoperability of our health IT systems," added Dr. Kibbe.   "The DirectTrust network is strengthening our security and identity requirements in order to match those of the Federal Agencies, and, in turn, accreditation by the VA and IHS HISPs enables our federal partners to communicate directly and securely with many thousands of hospitals, medical practices and health care professionals in the private sector regardless of EHR systems used.  This is good for the federal partners, and it is wonderful for millions of veterans and the Native American people served by the IHS, as it will allow care coordination to be greatly improved."

Commenting on the accreditation, the Department of Veterans Affairs stated, "DTAAP [Direct Trusted Agent Accreditation Program] elevates VA Direct Messaging as a trusted partner with the nationwide Direct community. For Veterans, Direct improves the coordination of patient care by making it faster and easier for VA and non-VA health care providers to share Veteran health information. Information can be shared in a secure Direct message instead of faxing, hand-carrying, and mailing. With VA and non-VA partners sharing Veterans' health data, they are less likely to repeat tests and procedures, thereby reducing duplication of services."

Through the consultative review process, EHNAC evaluated the Veterans Administration's and Indian Health Services' HISP in areas of privacy, security and confidentiality; technical performance; business practices and organizational resources as it relates to Directed exchange participants. In addition, EHNAC reviewed the organizations' process of managing and transferring protected health information and determined that the organization meets or exceeds all EHNAC criteria and industry standards. Through completion of the rigorous accreditation process, the organization demonstrates to its constituents, adherence to strict standards and participation in the comprehensive, objective evaluation of its business.

"Given the explosive growth in EHNAC-DirectTrust accredited members and substantial benefits of electronic health information exchange via Direct, we anticipate that the Department of Defense, Medicare/CMS, and other state and federal agencies will shortly follow the path of the VA and Indian Health Services," Dr. Kibbe concluded.

About DirectTrust

DirectTrust is a three-year old, non-profit, competitively neutral, self-regulatory entity created by and for participants in the Direct community, including Health Internet Service Providers (HISPs), Certificate Authorities (CAs), and Registration Authorities (RAs), doctors, patients and vendors, and supports both provider-to-provider as well as patient-to-provider Direct exchange. DirectTrust recently received a Cooperative Agreement Award from ONC as part of the Exemplar HIE Governance Program. DirectTrust serves as a forum and governance body for persons and entities engaged in Directed exchange of electronic health information as part of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN).  DirectTrust's Security and Trust Framework is the basis for the voluntary accreditation of service providers implementing Directed health information exchange. The goal of is to develop, promote and, as necessary, help enforce the rules and best practices necessary to maintain security and trust within the Direct community, consistent with the HITECH Act and the governance rules for the NwHIN established by ONC, is committed to fostering widespread public confidence in the Direct exchange of health information. To learn more, visit