States launch Direct across borders of Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska

"In Kansas City, there are a lot of patients who see doctors on both sides of the state line."
By Erin McCann
10:07 AM

Healthcare providers in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska can now exchange Direct secure messages across state lines, thanks to a collaborative effort among three state health information exchanges. 

The Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NeHII), Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN) and Missouri Health Connection (MHC) on Tuesday announced their health information service providers are now connected, allowing providers to electronically transmit patient care summaries, lab results and diagnostic images, among others, in a HIPAA-secure fashion.  
"I think it's really exciting, especially when you think about the Kansas border," said Mindy Mazur, chief operating officer at MHC. "For example, in Kansas City, there are a lot of patients who see doctors on both sides of the state line, and having technology like Direct and having Missouri Health Connection and KHIN connected and being able to exchange Direct messages, that just really helps streamline communication instead of having to send multiple pages via fax."
To date, MHC currently has 300 Direct messaging provider accounts and expects the number to steadily increase as the year progresses.  
Mazur said this Direct collaboration is funded by one-time federal dollars. "We are in the process of moving from the one-time startup federal grant funds to a self-sustaining organization," she added, which will be possible when a steady stream of revenue from customers comes in.
For Laura McCrary, executive director of KHIN, this kind of technology will not only streamline processes but ultimately enhance patient care. "It is vital that providers have a safe, secure method to communicate critical patient information across state lines," she said. 
McCrary said KHIN has 2,292 eligible providers that have Direct accounts and a total of 3,105 total Direct users. KHIN has tapped Informatics Corporation of America for its health information exchange (HIE) platform.
NeHII is the newest member to exchange Direct messages.

"The test with Missouri and Kansas was the first step in defining our requirements for cross-state interoperability," said Deb Bass, chief executive officer, NeHII. She added that the group is in the process of defining the second phase of business and technical requirements for exchange among the three states. NeHII has tapped Axolotl for its HIE solutions. 

Officials said this milestone announcement from the three states comes on the heels of Missouri and Illinois announcing Jan. 3 that they have successfully exchanged test messages. 
The Direct project was launched in March 2010 as a part of the Nationwide Health Information Network