If you work in the healthcare industry, then you may have heard the terms “Direct” or “Direct Secure Messaging” several times. Whether you consider yourself to know everything about the subject or you are just starting to get familiar with the terms, now is as good a time as any to brush up on what Direct is, who uses it, why it’s important, how it’s used, and more. So, let’s begin, what is Direct?
What is Direct Secure Messaging?
Developed in 2010 under a part of a federal project for standards-based communications, Direct is a national encryption standard for securely exchanging clinical healthcare data via the Internet. Also known as the Direct Project, Direct Exchange and Direct Secure Messaging, it specifies the secure, scalable and standards-based method for the exchange of Protected Health Information (PHI).
As a part of qualifying for incentive payments under the Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), healthcare organizations and providers must meet data transfer requirements using Direct Messaging. These requirements can be demonstrated with Electronic Health Records (EHRs) that comply with the ONC’s 2014 Edition EHR Certification Criteria which specifies electronic exchange of transition of care records with Direct Messaging.
Who uses Direct?
- Care Team Members
- Long Term Care
- Skilled Nursing
Why should you care?
Direct helps to cut costs and deliver improved quality of care.
On the clinical side, Direct Messaging addresses gaps in transitions of care which have been identified as a significant patient safety issue. Incomplete exchange of patient health information among providers when transitioning from one care environment to another is a point of vulnerability that can compromise the overall quality of care a patient receives.
On the business side, Direct Messaging can reduce or eliminate the costs associated with fax workflows by transitioning relatively expensive fax communication to less expensive email workflows.
There are many additional benefits to Direct Messaging, including:
- Strong security and privacy protection of PHI
- One unified standard that all systems can leverage
- Improved communications between providers
- Easily sent and received referral information
- Efficient report exchange
- Ease of sharing patient information
- Improved practice workflow
How is Direct used?
Here are some of the ways Direct can be used to communicate or share private health information:
- Transitions of care (CCD, CCD-A documents)
- Physician consult requests
- Admit-Discharge-Transfer Requests (ADT)
- Medication reconciliation
- Lab/Test results
- Patient communication
- Order submission
- Report distribution
- Peer to peer collaboration
How does Direct work?
Direct can be incorporated into a variety of user interfaces such as an email client, a mobile device, healthcare IT system portals or as an automated data delivery feed. Any of these interfaces are capable of sending or receiving Direct messages. But in order to participate, both sender and recipient users will need a specific Direct email address provided by their HISP. Healthcare IT systems can integrate Direct in multiple ways depending on the desired workflow.