Arkansas exchange taps into Direct messaging

By Erin McCann
10:36 AM

Arkansas’ health information exchange is in its first year of extending Direct messaging to providers across the state, and officials have already observed significant participation numbers. 

The endeavor, spearheaded by State Health Alliance for Records Exchange (SHARE), began enrolling providers in early March, and has already seen more than 1,761 individual users – with an additional 3,000 folks who have signed user agreements.

“Our goal, in this first year, is to sign up 26 hospitals and 200 plus practices for the full HIE solution,” Ray Scott, Arkansas’ HIT coordinator told Healthcare IT News

[See also: Rural Indiana hospital adopts Direct messaging technology.]

Scott pointed out that provider organizations see Direct as helping with two big problems: the costs fax lines tack onto the bill, and patient privacy concerns that come with fax technology.

He cited a state community health center that spent $25,000 annually just on fax-related services within their own network – and that’s not including labor. “When they found out about secure messaging, they immediately signed up.”

Scott added, “It’s not just the monetary costs, it’s the time and effort spent on running down faxes that either got sent to the wrong fax number, or it’s a 35 page document and five of those pages got left on the machine,” added Scott. “We hear those kind of stories frequently.”

Scott anticipates a growing number of providers using Direct, but worries some smaller, more rural hospitals simply don’t have the funds. SHARE still has a large amount of HITECH funds that they will be using to offset the cost of Direct for providers. “We hope to be able to reduce the initial costs of connecting to and using SHARE for the early adopters by offsetting those one-time connection fees, and technology costs with the one-time federal funding.”

[See also: North Carolina HIE adds Direct messaging capabilities.]

The transition to Direct is necessary, Scott concluded, as today’s healthcare industry is an entirely different beast. “The healthcare marketplace that we’re dealing with is not your mom and dad’s marketplace," he said. "Hospitals are no longer hospitals; they are now integrated delivery networks.”

And with an integrated delivery network, providers need a sophisticated and secure form of messaging. This changing hospital environment, said Scott, "can’t help but affect both our strategy and our approach in terms of what an HIE means in those environments, as opposed to thinking of it in terms of a traditional hospital environment.” 

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