Signed, sealed, delivered and secure
In an epoch of HIPAA breaches and privacy lawsuits that leave healthcare providers keeled over with clinical, financial and legal headaches - oftentimes meltdowns - more state medical organizations are adding Direct Messaging to their to-do lists.
The nationwide Direct movement is a progeny of the 2010-launched Direct Project - a supplement, so to speak - of the Nationwide Health Information Network. The project establishes a set of standards for transmitting secure, encrypted health information over the Internet.
Today, there are 38 states live with Direct and using these standards, with seven additional states participating in pilot programs.
Most recently, secure messaging has connected providers in Indiana, North Carolina and Arkansas.
Rural hospitals often lag behind with implementing health IT - such as Direct - when compared with the larger, more financially robust institutions. However, some rural hospitals are making strides to set themselves apart.
Decatur, Ind.-based Adams Memorial Hospital, a 35-bed critical access hospital has put itself on the map after becoming the first rural hospital in the state to adopt the messaging technology.
This newly added security blanket, so to speak, began its journey back in July, and it has made it possible for users to securely and electronically communicate with other users. Via an encrypted channel, lab reports, radiology images and other personal health information can all be exchanged and accessed.
"With Direct mail, our providers are receiving information on their patients immediately as the results are made available. From there, their action items are more convenient and effective, with little to no training on the product itself," said Tom Nordwick, president and CEO of Adams Memorial Hospital. "It's just going to make our physicians' lives easier, and that's how technology should work."
Presently, 15 physicians at Adams Memorial Hospital are utilizing Direct, and hospital officials expect this number will increase over the next few months.
North Carolina's Health Information Exchange (NC HIE) also recently added Direct capabilities, officials announced back in July. Today upwards of 250 healthcare professionals are utilizing the encrypted messaging, representing more than 100 organizations and more than one million transactions.