A new way to transfer data

Nearly 50 vendors came together to develop the specs for the Direct Project, representing the many facets of health IT.

Dozens of would-be competitors collaborated under ONC auspices on the Direct Project

ORLANDO – In March, not long after the first two Direct Project pilots got under way, Healthcare IT News took a closer look at the collaborative beginnings of the initiative – and explored the promise it held for the future of healthcare.

Deputy National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari called it “a new way of doing business.” National Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra called it “a great example of how government can work as a convener to catalyze new ideas and business models through collaboration.”

Todd Park, CTO of the Department of Health and Human Services, called it – deep breath – “a classic, fantastic, soon-to-be-legendary example of how the public and private sectors can come together in a collaborative, entrepreneurial explosion of mojo to improve and advance healthcare in America.”

Spearheaded by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT, the Direct Project promises a simple, secure, scalable way to transfer medical data between clinicians via e-mail.

And it appears, said Sean Nolan, chief architect and general manager of Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group, “to be the first technology that could really kill the fax in healthcare.”

It’s also an example of the speed and efficacy with which advancements can be brought to fruition when competitors put aside their differences and work together, under federal guidance, on a common goal.

Nearly 50 vendors came together to develop the specs for the Direct Project, representing the many facets of health IT: 4Medica, Allscripts, eClinicalWorks, Epic, GE Healthcare, Greenway, IBM, Intel, Kryptiq, NoMoreClipboard, Siemens, Surescripts, and more.

In the words of ONC head David Blumenthal, they represent a crucial coming together of health IT vendors, “including competitors, to rapidly produce a system that supports basic clinical delivery and public health needs.”

No easy task to get that many different players together in the same room, let alone working together on the same project. But by laying open code and enabling communication via wiki, government officials were able to entice an impressive roster of participants to sign on.