Direct transactions increased by almost 50 percent in Q1 2019

There have been more 771 million exchanges using the DirectTrust network since it was first launched, and new use cases, beyond just referrals and care coordination, are boosting its growth.
By Mike Miliard
10:25 AM

DirectTrust on Monday said it's seeing record growth in the number of users and data exchange transactions on its network.

More and more health systems are using the secure, verifiable email-like exchanges to share protected health information with other providers and patients – and many are leveraging it as an intuitive way to get around some long-standing interoperability challenges.

The number of organizations served by DirectTrust health information service providers increased by almost 49 percent in the first quarter of 2018, to more than 167,000.

And the number of specific Direct addresses within those organizations saw a 13 percent uptick, with more than 1.9 million able to share PHI.=

Impressively, the number of consumers involved in using the network also saw a substantial 19 percent increase: More than 265,000 patients now able to receive Direct messages from their physicians.

There were more than 164 million messages sent and received across the DirectTrust network in Q1, officials said. Not only is that nearly 50 percent more than in the previous quarter, it's three-and-a-half times more than the same period last year.

As total membership of DirectTrust has increased to 109 organizations, the cumulative total of Direct exchange transactions is now 771 million since it was launched in 2014.

Beyond the numbers themselves, Scott Stuewe, president and CEO of DirectTrust, said he was heartened by the fact that "new and novel use cases – beyond referrals and care coordination – are also contributing to our growth."

He said many DirectTrust members are using the network to "connect users of certified electronic health record technology to the continuum of care in the broader community," for example, an expansion of its potential to solve real-world interoperability challenges.

"Numerous members are utilizing the network to trigger and communicate notifications of healthcare events as aligned with new CMS proposed rulemaking," said Stuwe. "This is resulting in double-digit growth in the number of messages transmitted per address."

Direct messaging has shown this sort of potential since it was first announced, way back at HIMSS11, as “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" (in the memorable words of former HHS CTO Todd Park).

In the years since, it's gained traction, despite some "uphill struggle" in the early going, and now looks poised to have some serious staying power and more and more providers, including the VA, are availing themselves of its security and convenience.

"The first quarter of 2019 indicates astounding growth and could very well be a watershed moment for DirectTrust," said Stuewe. "Not only did members report a general increase in Direct Secure Messaging, but we also see growth driven by the migration of messaging traffic from outside our network into the DirectTrust Accredited Trust Bundle to leverage the value of a strong trust framework. As an example, providers at the Department of Veterans Affairs are now messaging from within the Accredited Trust Anchor Bundle."

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