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DirectTrust Health Data Exchange Transactions Up 90% in One Year

The healthcare alliance reported that health data exchange transactions in the first quarter of 2018 increased nearly 90 percent over the same period last year.

directtrust health data exchange interoperability

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- DirectTrust recently reported that the first quarter of 2018 has seen health data exchange transactions hit 47.8 million, which is an increase of approximately 90 percent over the same time frame in 2017.

Healthcare organizations served by DirectTrust health information service providers (HISPs) and engaging in Direct exchange also increased 19 percent, reaching more than 112,000 total.

“These are very encouraging results. The DirectTrust nationwide network continues to be depended upon for secure, interoperable communication of healthcare messaging and attachments,” DirectTrust President and CEO David C. Kibbe, MD, MBA said in a statement.

“Despite the tremendous amount of attention being given to FHIR and APIs, the growth here is solid and reflects the value of electronic ‘push’ technology to replace fax and paper,” he continued. “We are also noticing an uptick in patient/consumer involvement in Direct secure messaging, and improvements in EHR vendors’ software features and functions that make Direct more user-friendly for clinicians and their staffs.”

DirectTrust addresses that can share PHI also grew 17 percent to nearly 1.7 million, the non-profit alliance reported. Patients/consumers with DirectTrust addresses grew about 45 percent to 225,000 in the first quarter of 2018.

More healthcare organizations have also joined DirectTrust since January 1, 2018, bringing total membership to 117 organizations.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service provides federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives and is now a DirectTrust member.

Additionally, ReferralMD joined the data exchange network. The referral network management CRM assists healthcare professionals with numerous tasks, including but not limited to referral workflow, messaging, and e-consults.

Healthcare delivery system Trinity Health is also now part of DirectTrust, and is comprised of more than 30 million people across 22 states.

DirectTrust finished off Q4 2017 with 45.7 million health data exchange transactions, which was slightly lower than Q3 2017 in where nearly 46.3 million transactions occurred. However, the third quarter last year showed a jump over Q2, which had 40.1 million health data exchange transactions.

Data from DirectTrust also shows that patients/consumers engaged in Direct exchange are steadily on the rise. There were 184,012 patients/consumers with Direct addresses in Q4 2017 and 179,428 in Q3 2017.

Healthcare organizations being served by DirectTrust HISPs are also steadily on the rise. There were 106,802 reported for Q4 2017, with 106,205 for Q3 2017, and 99,365 reported in Q2 2017.

Secure health data exchange is quickly becoming a main topic in the industry, especially with the continued push toward nationwide interoperability. DirectTrust was one of several organizations that commented on ONC’s Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) earlier this year.

DirectTrust stressed that both the push model of health data exchange and the pull model of query exchange should be utilized.

“The omission from the documents of the importance of the Direct interoperable ‘push’ model implies that ‘query’ for a patient’s medical information is all that is needed to achieve the interoperability goals of the 21st Century Cures Act,” the letter stated, which was signed by Kibbe.

“Health care providers need and deserve a combination of electronic ‘push’ interoperability with ‘query’ technology to provide the full gamut of interoperation of clinical information systems.” 

Securely pushing EHR data via Direct is necessary to ensure real time acute facility discharge messages to a patient’s ambulatory care team, Kibbe added. It will also be beneficial for closed loop referrals, which is “when placing a referral to another healthcare provider or service, then the return of the results from a service or encounter.”

Finally, ad-hoc communication among individual providers, other health care team members, patients, and caregivers will be improved through the push model of data exchange.

“Features and functions to support easy use of Direct messaging for providers ought to remain a high priority for support by ONC,” Kibbe wrote. “We believe this is an unwarranted oversight on the part of ONC, and one that we hope will be corrected.”

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