Electronic Health Records

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NYC, Albany area HIEs connect with Direct secure messaging

By Jennifer Bresnick

New York City residents might think the rural northern reaches of the state belong to a different world, but urbanites have taken one step closer to their upstate brethren with health information exchange.  The New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), which services the five boroughs, and the Healthcare Information Xchange of New York (HIXNY), covering the Albany capital area and 17 northern New York counties, are now offering Direct secure messaging for member physicians.

Direct secure messaging is an ONC initiative launched in 2010, designed to allow providers to exchange secure, encrypted attachments and emails over an ordinary internet connection, eliminating the need for the complicated infrastructure associated with a fully capable HIE.  While Direct only provides a basic method of electronic communication, it eliminates the need for phone calls and faxes and is seen as a first step towards achieving true information exchange.

By connecting two mature regional HIE systems, Direct gives providers a simple tool to send care summaries, imaging studies, and specialist referrals across healthcare systems. “The consultation process is an example of the need for this selective information exchange,” said Fred Venditti MD, Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs at Albany Medical Center. “A primary care provider can send to a consultant the relevant clinical data to initiate a referral. The consultant can send the completed consultation note with the important clinical data created as part of the evaluation directly back to the PCP. Direct Messaging provides a next generation clinician-centric way to electronically exchange patient information by and ‘directly’ between clinicians’ EHRs.”

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with Albany Medical Center and in turn the New York eHealth Collaborative on this critically important initiative for our region and state,” said HIXNY CEO Mark McKinney . “HIXNY is putting current and actionable information into providers’ workflows, enhancing the care being provided to patients throughout the region,” McKinney said. “Direct Messaging is just another way for us to allow physicians to access this data.”

National Coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari, who previously helped New York City initiate its successful Primary Care Information Project, also praised the two HIEs for expanding their coverage areas by linking together.  “Today’s announcement is important for New Yorkers as it marks the deployment of simple, secure messaging that enhances connectivity and targeted care coordination among participants in HIXNY,” he said. “This milestone allows providers to reach beyond the borders of existing regional exchanges, and even beyond state lines. The Direct solution is a critical component for eligible providers to achieve Stage 2 meaningful use in New York while enabling a simple point-to-point exchange of patient health data.”

With 11 regional health information organizations (RHIOs), New York State is working hard to enable information exchange for the majority of its large population, encompassing both remote rural populations and the biggest city in the United States.  In addition to Direct messaging, state authorities are also working on Patient Record Look-Up, which allows providers to search for and retrieve individual patient records after receiving consent.  The state will require all vendors that wish to provide Direct messaging in their products to be certified according to CCHIT standards.




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