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DirectTrust Increased Health Data Exchange Activities in 2016

The facilitator of Direct health data exchange reported a surge of new users and a spike in Direct transactions throughout the previous calendar year.

DirectTrust Growth.

Source: Thinkstock.

By Kate Monica

DirectTrust recently reported a record 146-percent increase in health data exchange transactions using the Direct health IT standard in 2016.

The organization experienced record growth not only in the number of Direct message transactions and addresses nationwide but also in the number of healthcare organizations using their services.

The non-profit healthcare industry alliance, which provides a Direct interoperability network for secure personal health information (PHI) exchange between providers and patients, facilitated over 98-million Direct message transactions over the previous calendar year, with 33.5 million of those transactions completed during the fourth quarter of 2016 alone.

That puts the organization’s total number of transactions at 165 million since its start in 2013.

The number of Direct addresses exchanging PHI jumped 24 percent, reaching over 1.36 million since the close of 2015. DirectTrust now services 71,000 accredited health information service providers (HISPs) — a 36-percent increase over 2015. The organizations network includes 41 EHNAC-DirectTrust HISOs connected with over 350 ONC-certified EHR technology.

“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 & CEO David. C. Kibbe, MD MBA.  ”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.”

The alliance allows for interoperable health data exchange over a secure connection based on accepted health IT standards. DirectTrust attributes its success as an organization to its many benefits, including access to accurate, current information from health information services providers and quality assurances through frequent tests and comparisons to other national provider directories — among other methods of ensuring quality, up-to-date, secure information exchange.

In 2016, Kibbe stated DirectTrust’s biggest challenge was finding an efficient way to allow users access to the organization’s huge cache of data. The upsurge of growth in the DirectTrust network falls in line with a longstanding upward trajectory steadily increasing since the start of 2015.

In a public statement issued early in 2016, Kibbe stated “2015 was a stellar year for Direct and what is fast becoming a national health information highway.”

At that time, the number of Direct addresses sharing PHI had increased by 66 percent over the previous year, and the organization anticipated the number of Direct transactions would surpass 230 million by the end of 2016. While this prediction turned out to be a bit lofty, DirectTrust still experienced a record-breaking year continuing its trend of positive growth consistently since the network’s inception.

“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. 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,” Kibbe said.

Care coordination and interoperability — both areas DirectTrust has proven useful in advancing — are two of the healthcare industry’s biggest priorities heading into 2017.

In 2016, the organization predicted facilitating over 800 million Direct transactions by the end of 2017. Whether that prediction will prove accurate remains to be seen, but DirectTrust continues on the right path toward achieving this end. 

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