Kansas HIE goes live with Direct messaging

By Erin McCann
03:56 PM

State officials announced on Tuesday that Kansas has become the latest newcomer to join the burgeoning number of states and providers now using Direct messaging technology to facilitate secure, provider-to-provider communication.

As of June 30, the Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN) – a statewide provider-led HIE initiative – connects a total of 2,000 healthcare providers statewide using Direct protocols through Health Information Service Protocol (HISP) transactions.  

“Our goal is to provide health information exchange technology to all of our providers in the state of Kansas,” said Laura McCrary, executive director KHIN. This goal, she explained consists of three stages.  

The first stage is to deliver Direct message capabilities – supplied by the Nashville, Tenn.-based ICA exchange services company. Officials hope Direct will encourage providers to move away from the more antiquated fax technology.

“We really feel that the fax machine has contributed to a lot of issues related to patient safety – due to incomplete data or data being faxed to the incorrect location or data being collated incorrectly, filed incorrectly," said McCrary. "So our goal is to really utilize the Direct messaging capability that we have available to improve patient safety and patient care because complete information will be available to the physician in a timely manner.”

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

Secondly, the next stage consists of creating a provider portal, which officials say will allow physicians and other authorized users to access patient data in a longitudinal view. This will enable the physician to “see any information that’s available on that patient across all of the providers that are providing care to that patient in Kansas,” said McCrary.  

The portal is slated to go live for five early adopter facilities in the next couple of weeks. All providers across the state will be able to view data in the exchange, and 20 more organizations are expected to join on by the end of the fiscal year.   

The third and final stage comes down to integration – when providers can integrate their own facilities data into the exchange. 

[See also: Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment works to restore electronic data after IT failure.]

The benefits of the three-part initiative, officials said, are obvious. One of its many advantages, as McCrary explained, is Direct's resemblance to Microsoft Office, which many providers are familiar with. “So most physicians require little or no training to begin using Direct to share information with other providers.” 

The ICA CareAlign HIE-connecting platform serves all of Kansas including 132 hospitals and more than 4,500 physicians. Foundational members include the Kansas Medical Society, the Kansas Hospital Association and the Wichita Health Information Exchange. This effort is one of the largest in the U.S covering 82,000 square miles and approximately 3,000,000 patients.

"KHIN took a very careful and rational approach to developing this HIE," said Gary Zegiestowsky, chief executive officer at ICA. "The project started with a small working group of physicians and other providers. The success of this group led to aggressive provider recruitment and word began to spread. That KHIN now has over 1,400 physicians with a total of 2,000 users participating in its statewide HIE, and the CareAlign platform is enabling HIEs to connect with each other, speaks highly of everyone involved, and it is likely that KHIN will become the standard by which other states measure success in HIE.” 

"We have long believed that this technology will have community-wide benefits for improving care and getting costs under control," said McCrary. "So after a successful provider recruitment effort and nearly a year of technology planning and testing, we have been pleased at how smoothly the launch went. In fact, the technology is so intuitive that when we made additional training available to providers not a single provider indicated that they needed it."

[See also: Ohio first state to use Direct messaging across state lines.]

According to a June HealthIT Buzz blog post, just shy of 30 statewide HIEs can now utilize Direct messaging. Other groups that have recently expanded Direct messaging technology include Pennsylvania’s eHealth Collaborative, which initiated a grant program that will provide a year of free Direct services to health care providers, rural Indiana’s Adams Memorial Hospital and Oregon’s HIE, CareAccord, that now subsidizes its Direct messaging for providers.