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The Direct Project: Meaningful, Secure and Effective Patient Engagement

image of group of medical workers talking

Meaningful Use Stage 2 final rules lay strong emphasis on patient engagement. And for good reason. A survey conducted in 2011 by the Commonwealth Fund found that patients who were more engaged in their health care were less likely to report medical errors and in general hold the medical system in higher regard.

To achieve this, however, physicians and patients need to be able to exchange information seamlessly, and more importantly, in a meaningful and secure way. This is where the Direct Project comes in, offering a well- defined and MU2 approved standard for information exchange.

So what is Direct?

The Direct Project envisions an easy-to-use, Internet-based mechanism that enables the encrypted push of health information from a sender to a known receiver, replacing the currently prevalent paper-based mail and fax transmissions. It establishes standards and documentation to support simple scenarios of pushing data in a way that will support more sophisticated interoperability in the future.

As far back as 2011, a number of HIEs, like the Greater Houston Health Information Exchange (GHHIE), as well as a large number of providers, have successfully piloted exchanging health information as part of the Direct Project. A recent article by ONC highlights the following:

  • Providers are effectively using Direct to meet the CMS Meaningful Use requirements while supporting additional use cases including those of health information exchange, receiving hospital admits and discharge reports, sending documentation for care transition and sharing information with patients
  • Programs such as Florida’s New Born Hearing Screening (NBS), California’s Redwood MedNet and St. Joseph Health System & Ohio’s Greater Cincinnati Beacon Community, have greatly benefitted with the implementation of the direct project
Direct - Patient Engagement

The Federal Government has created regulations that require the providers to engage with patients in a meaningful and secure manner. This results in an increase in outflow of patient data from medical facilities. There is a need to ensure that the data is exchanged in a secure manner. This is where patient portals come into play.

Direct Enabled Patient Portals

Direct Enabled Patient Portals would enable a secure, two-way communication between patients and their physicians and would have the capability to:

  • Send Clinical summaries to patients
  • Send their patients alerts and reminders for preventive care
  • Allow patient to send condition specific queries to the physician

Many providers offer their own (provider-specific) patient portals. Patients face the challenge of registering into each provider’s patient portal. However, patients have the choice of creating personal Direct address through freely available PHR like Microsoft HealthVault.

Direct is backed by ONC and so there seems to be a good amount of participation among HIEs and provider organizations. It looks like a very effective way to ensure that physicians can easily access critical patient information when they need it most.

To know more about how CitiusTech can benefit healthcare providers achieve Meaningful Use certification, please click here. CitiusTech's BI-Clinical is 2014 ONC HIT certified (V13.1, CC-2014-449180-1) on 11 June, 2013.


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