Direct message transactions surging as the interoperability tool gains ground nationwide
Six years after its first pilot projects were announced in 2011, Direct messaging could be reaching critical mass. Transactions increased 146 percent during 2016, according to a new DirectTrust report, which also sees a marked increase in the number of Direct Exchange addresses and users.
There were more than 98 million Direct message transactions between Direct addresses in 2016, according to DirectTrust, a non-profit group representing participants in the interoperability network. There were more than more than 33.5 million Direct messages transmitted during the fourth quarter of 2016 alone. That brings the total number of transactions since 2013 to more than 165 million since 2013 (the year Direct Trust was founded).
The number of trusted Direct addresses able to share personal health information across the DirectTrust network increased 24 percent, to more than 1.36 million since the end of 2015, according to the report. And the number of healthcare providers served by DirectTrust accredited health information service providers increased 36 percent – to nearly 71,000. That compares o just 52,000 at the end of 2015.
DirectTrust's national network now includes 41 EHNAC-DirectTrust accredited HISPs working with more than 350 ONC certified EHRs, according to the group.
"What we're experiencing is the continued expansion of Direct as a national platform for interoperability among users of hundreds of different vendors' EHR, PHR and other IT products," said DirectTrust President and CEO David. C. Kibbe, MD. "As EHRs become virtually ubiquitous in hospitals and medical practices, Direct messaging adds value by virtue of being 'plugged in' and able to replace fax and mail for all sorts of transactions, without the end user having to leave his or her EHR system. It's important that Direct be convenient and work flow friendly."
According to a 2015 survey by the HIMSS Interoperability and HIE Committees, the biggest benefits of the tool – according to the hospitals, physician practices, HIEs, HISPs and ACOs polled – included speedier access to information, less paper handing and more accurate and complete patient information.
The top five reported uses of Direct were: transitions of care; ADT notifications; patient communication; secure email for other purposes and consult requests between physicians.
"The primary use cases for Direct continue to be support of care coordination, and clinical messaging for referrals and alerts, but we're also starting to see Direct messaging for administrative and research data communications," said Kibbe. "As demand for Direct grows, vendors are increasingly improving their usability for Direct, and adding file formats that can be shared as attachments. I am really encouraged to see those 'last mile' types of problems being addressed across the entire industry."