DIRECT is a tool developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to facilitate secure communication of health information directly from one provider to another. The Pennsylvania eHealth Collaborative (PAeHC) is making free one-year subscriptions of DIRECT available to health care providers in Pennsylvania via the DIRECT Incentive Grant Program for those that sign up by October 31, 2012. DIRECT will continue to be avaiable to providers for a fee after the grant program expires on October 31.
DIRECT is a standards-based, secure system based on e-mail protocol. Designed to replace mail and fax communications for sharing health information, it is the first step toward the adoption of more robust forms of health information exchange.
DIRECT can be used for structured or unstructured data delivery, meaning providers can simply provide unstructured health information, much like they would via faxed or mailed letter, or attach structured data from electronic health record programs that could be dropped into a patient's record. However, providers do not need to have an electronic health record system to use DIRECT; providers simply need access to the Internet with no additional in-house technology or resources required.
A recorded webinar for providers interested in DIRECT appears on the PAeHC page. A PDF version of the slides used in the webinar is also available to download.
DIRECT is available by signing up with a commonwealth-approved, certified Health Information Service Provider (HISP). The HISP will assist providers in obtaining a DIRECT e-mail address and a digital certificate.
Those eligible for DIRECT include:
PAeHC's DIRECT website includes a primer on choosing a HISP. The primer lists contact information for commonwealth-approved, certified HISPs as well as important questions that providers should ask before choosing a HISP.
Providers who sign up with a commonwealth-approved, certified HISP by October 31, 2012, will receive one year of DIRECT service free, paid for through the commonwealth's $2 million DIRECT Incentive Grant Program. HISPs apply for the grants to fund DIRECT, not individual providers; there will be no paperwork for providers relating to the grant itself. There will only be a contract between the provider and the HISP to obtain DIRECT Messaging free for one year. Some HISPs may offer services outside free basic DIRECT Messaging, like those relating to EHR capabilities, which providers may purchase if desired. Again, it is important to ask questions that appear in the primer prior to selecting a HISP.
To sign up for DIRECT, please visit PAeHC's DIRECT website, which includes the following information:
We encourage optometrists to take advantage of this opportunity to implement DIRECT as a first step toward electronic health information exchange.
In July 2011, Governor Tom Corbett signed an Executive Order establishing the PA eHealth Collaborative (PAeHC) to provide leadership and strategic direction to advance health information exchange in Pennsylvania. Two staff members were selected to serve on PAeHC standing committees. Dr. Charles Stuckey, POA executive director, is serving on the Business & Operations Committee, and Deb Blanchard, POA communications director, is serving on the Communications & Outreach Committee.
The Governor's Executive Order comes as a result of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, a legislative mandate for the United States Department of Health and Human Services through the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to support the adoption of health information technology and the promotion of a nationwide health information network to improve healthcare. The HITECH Act provides funding for the development of statewide health information exchange capabilities to states that accept certain conditions. Pennsylvania has accepted federal funds to implement the electronic exchange of health information.
The Executive Order established the Pennsylvania eHealth Collaborative Office (PAeHCO) in the Office of Administration. PAeHCO supports a six-member Executive Council, which is comprised of the heads of the Department of Health, Department of Public Welfare, Department of Aging, Insurance Department, Office of Administration and Governor's Policy Office; and an Advisory Committee appointed by the Governor. The Advisory Committee oversees the standing committees on which POA's two staff members serve. Standing committee members were chosen from the broad healthcare stakeholder community, including but not limited to third party payers, hospitals, providers and patient advocacy groups.
POA is fortunate to have two staff members involved in the planning and early implementation stages of the commonwealth's health information exchange initiatives.
In May 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) approved PAeHC's strategic and operational plans. PAeHC has now moved into the implementation phase of the plan, which includes the DIRECT Incentive Grant Program.