Hawaii and Virginia state HIEs switch on Direct messaging

By Mary Mosquera
11:41 AM

Virginia and Hawaii state health information exchanges (HIEs) have gone live with secure messaging using the Direct Project protocols  — milestones that begin to deliver on these states’ promises for sharing patient data to improve health care.

Electronically sharing patient data between providers can reduce errors and test duplication of tests and enhance patient safety and efficiency. Direct essentially replaces sending health information via fax.

In Hawaii, 12 physician practices — seven primary care and five specialty practices — are using Direct “push” model as of April 5 to exchange lab results and send and receive patient referrals. The practices include 23 providers, 17 of which are located in the Honolulu area on the island of Oahu and six are located in Hilo on the more rural Big Island, according to Christine Sakuda, executive director of the Hawaii Health Information Exchange. 

Hawaii HIE, a non-profit organization started in 2006, has contracted with Medicity to build the exchange infrastructure in phases, starting with the Direct secure messaging capability. Hawaii HIE will also serve as the health information service provider (HISP) to authenticate users to create, transmit and receive secure messages.

Also, Virginia’s statewide health information exchange, ConnectVirginia, switched on its Direct secure messaging for any licensed, certified or regulated healthcare providers to easily share vital patient information.

Direct messaging is available free of charge until April 1, 2013. After that time, ConnectVirginia will charge a monthly fee of $15 per Direct address or $180 per year, according to Sandy McCleaf, ConnectVirginia’s executive director.

Direct messaging also helps providers meet specific requirements for meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) by enabling the electronic exchange of patient care summaries, results, and other information. “Every provider in the Commonwealth is encouraged to take advantage of this capability,” she said.

An EHR is not required to send and receive ConnectVirginia Direct messages, however. Access to send and receive messages is provided through stand-alone software accessed through the ConnectVirginia Direct Messaging service. Providers can use this service to securely send mail to other recipients who also have a ConnectVirginia Direct address.

[Feature: ONC to stand up NwHIN-Exchange as non-profit HIE in October.]

Elsewhere, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) has said it will develop a plan to add behavioral health information and apply recommendations based on a survey it conducted and an accompanying report to support more granular controls for patient choices about which information they wish to share and with whom. CORHIO uses HIE infrastructure from Medicity.

“CORHIO remains committed to working with the behavioral health and physical health communities to improve care coordination and population health outcomes through health information exchange, while protecting patients’ rights to privacy,” said Liza Fox-Wylie, CORHIO policy director.

The Colorado HIE also has made available an interactive map of all participating exchange providers.