- Earlier in March, the Tennessee Regional Extension Center (REC), operated by non-profit QSource, announced the launch of their Health eShare initiative, designed to encourage providers to adopt Direct secure messaging and foster health information exchange (HIE). Direct is a national standard protocol that allows providers to exchange clinical information and attachments without the need for anything other than broadband internet access and an email address.
“We’re building a marketplace of Direct vendors so individual practitioners can sign up to implement the technology either through their EHR or as a standalone web portal,” explained QSource CEO Dawn FitzGerald to EHRintelligence. “Any physician, even those who have an internet connection but no EHR, can participate. The value of the program is allowing physicians to effectively communicate between healthcare practices in a secure fashion, which opens the door to improved patient care.”
Health eShare is in the process of running a pilot program in Memphis and Chattanooga to assess how physicians use Direct to exchange data. “The idea is to use these communities as an exploratory marketplace where we can figure out what are the most compelling use cases for Direct,” FitzGerald said. “As we develop that, the notion is that we would break down those lessons learned and how to effectively implement them before we go state-wide. For many of these healthcare systems, it’s a matter of figuring out how they’re going to fit [HIE] into their timelines. We’ve got meaningful use, we’ve got PQRS reporting – there are all these other incentive programs out there for EHR adoption, so for a lot of them, the biggest barrier is how to put it into their workflow in an effective manner and have the time to do it.”
The REC has been extraordinary successful in encouraging providers to adopt EHRs so far, more than doubling the numbers of EHR-enabled practice to nearly forty percent. “We have worked with over 1600 providers, helping them explore EHR adoption and meaningful use, and at this point, about half of those have already gotten their first payment from Medicare or Medicaid. We’re working with the state now to expand our capacity to take on providers for the next year, because of course the ONC only funded us for a limited time and we have a waiting list of people who are still interested. I think the value of the program has been demonstrated quite effectively in Tennessee,” said FitzGerald. “We’ve had a phenomenal uptake of EHR in the state.”
Tennessee’s vision is to add HIE to the arsenal of tools that make EHR adoption worthwhile using Direct as the catalyst towards establishing connections between care communities. As other states also explore the use of the technology, creating inter-state exchanges and developing HIE within their own borders, Direct is taking off as the technology of choice, allowing providers to overcome barriers between health IT systems and differing governmental regulations.
“Health eShare will be the driving force that helps Tennesseans embrace Direct and other technology that facilitates secure health information exchange,” FitzGerald concluded. “Transmitting health information electronically can reduce clerical errors and provide a full picture of a patient’s status for all involved in the continuum of care. It’s imperative that everyone in Tennessee rally around Health eShare Direct Project as an effective way to improve healthcare.”