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Direct Messaging: The Logistics of Exchange

Posted on June 12, 2014 I Written By

Julie Maas is Founder and CEO of EMR Direct, a HISP (Health Information Service Provider) whose mission is to simplify interoperability in healthcare through the use of Direct messaging EHR integration and other applications. EMR Direct works with a large developer community to enable Direct for MU2 and other workflows using a custom, rapid-integration API that's part of the phiMail Direct Messaging platform. Julie is passionate about improving quality of care and software user experience, and manages ongoing interoperability testing within DirectTrust. Find Julie on Twitter @JulieWMaas.

Once you enable digital health data exchange via Direct instead of by fax, you’ll want to share your address with other providers, so you no longer have to deal with all those pesky scanned attachments, subtly linked to electronic patient records.

Direct directories are enabling address lookup to meet this need, and you can also let your most common business partners know your address by including it on document templates you already exchange today, so they can begin to exchange with you via Direct when they’re ready.  You can also contact your referring docs using another method you trust (such as the fax where you usually send them medical records, or their business phone number) to ask for their Direct address.

It’s wise to confirm expectations with exchange partners about the use cases/data payloads for which you intend to exchange via Direct, as Direct isn’t used just like email by everyone.  Some will use Direct solely for Transitions of Care and patient Transmit, others may use it for Secure Messaging with patients, and still other providers will be happy to conduct general professional correspondence with patients and other providers over Direct.  This service information may or may not be reflected in the first provider directories.  And even within the Transitions of Care use case, if standards aren’t implemented for optimal receiving, a sending system may generate a CCDA (Continuity of Care Document) with a subtly different structure than a receiving system is able to completely digest.  So, just a heads up as you receive your first message or two from a system with whom you haven’t exchanged before: you’ll want to carefully monitor what data is incorporated by the receiving system and what is not, and you may need to iterate slightly between sender and receiver to get the data consumption right.  You’ll still be miles ahead of the custom interfaces model.

All in all, Direct is easy to use and is working much better than the naysayers would have you believe.  Direct software follows the specification outlined in the document lovingly known in the industry as the “Applicability Statement”, crafted by consensus through a public/private collaborative effort known as the “Direct Project” and led by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC).   Direct Project volunteers have also written reference implementations following this specification which have been used by many HISPs and EHRs as the basis for their own Direct offerings.  Other private entities have developed their own APIs and implementations of the protocol from scratch.  These different systems and varying configurations regularly test and collaborate with each other, to make Direct work as seamlessly as possible for the end users.  Because the whole system only works as well as our joint efforts, HISPs (Health Information Service Providers who provide Direct services) within the DirectTrust Network take interoperability seriously and work together to iron out any kinks.

A tremendous amount of collaboration is taking place to bring interoperability to fruition for Direct’s well-established standards and policies, and this work is producing a larger and more robust network each day.

4 Things Your Patient Portal Should Include

Posted on May 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Karen Gallagher Grant has a great blog post up on the MRA Health Information Services blog that talks about the ideal patient portal. She breaks it down into 4 things that a patient portal should provide:

  1. Information that is meaningful
  2. Easy access for patient review for data integrity
  3. Dashboard information about prescriptions that combine pharmacy information and clinical information
  4. Appointment scheduling

And 5 things she’d ideally like to see in a patient portal:

  1. Details about my next appointment
  2. Wellness tips
  3. Access to home health through telemedicine solutions
  4. Customized decision support via nationwide clinical data repositories
  5. Patient exchange of information

I found these lists really interesting, but I asked myself “Is this what we really want in a patient portal?

I think the number thing people want in a patient portal is access to a provider. Sure, it’s great to be able to access your paper records, your prescription history, your appointment list, and even some health information. Although the health information is never going to be as good as what Dr. Google can provide.

I was surprised that almost nothing (except the Telemedicine solution) talks about the patient portal being used to connect with the doctor. This is the most compelling reason for a patient to use the portal. They want to connect with someone. Notice the emphasis on the one, that means with an actual person. Yes, in many cases this can be the front desk, the biller, or the nurse, but patient portals see the most value when the portal is a way for a patient to connect to a person. Then, the rest of the resources become more valuable and used as well.

The problem is that most of the patient portals out there don’t do a good job connecting people. Although, maybe I’m just biased because of the Physia Connect messaging product we’ve developed and the docBeat messaging company I advise. However, seeing these two products helps me realize how beneficial it can be to make healthcare communication simple. Once we do that, it opens up whole new windows of opportunities.

Health IT Q&A, Speciality EMRs, and Secure Messaging: Around Health Care Scene.

Posted on September 16, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

EMR and HIPAA

Health IT Q&A With Scott Joslyn, CIO and Senior Vice President, MemorialCare Health System

This post features Scott Joslyn from MemorialCare Health System. He talks about a few different Health IT topics, including benefits and disadvantages to EHR and voice recognition. Joslyn is definitely an expert on Health IT, so this is a post you don’t want to miss.

Verizon Hopes To Be Secure Healthcare Network For All

Verizon is more than just switches, routers, and cables. Katherine Rourke discovered what the company has in store in the future with mHealth. She talked with Dr. Tippett from Verizon, who said Verizon’s Connected Health Division is “aiming to set the bar higher.” The company is hard at work, so expect some great things coming from Verizon.

Hospital EMR and EHR

Specialty EMRs: Behind the Curve? 

Are specialty EMRs worth investing in? There is debate on both sides of the issue, and a general consensus doesn’t appear to be developing anytime soon. Anne talks about assertions made in a statement recently about specialty EMRs, and offers her own two cents on the topic.

Study Suggests Most HIEs Aren’t Sustainable

HIEs are very expensive. Unfortunately, according to a recent study, the investment in them don’t seem to have any financial or clinical payback. There’s so much time and effort being put toward HIEs — would money be better spent elsewhere? Likely, but Anne Zieger doesn’t see things changing anytime soon.

Smart Phone Health Care

App Developers Urged to Consider Older Generations

There are apps developed that could make managing diseases like diabetes so much easier. However, these apps may not be designed with all age groups in mind. Researchers from North Carolina State are urging app developers to keep older generations in mind, who aren’t able to use certain apps as they are currently designed.

Happy EMR Doctor

EMRs’ Big Gaping Hole of Secure Messaging

This post is the first in a series from Dr. West, highlighting insights from his recent participating at a breakfast panel in Washington D.C. He talks about issues with secure messaging, including the lack of EMRs that have secure messaging included in their system. In the end, he discusses how secure messaging could impact patients and doctors positively.

EMRs’ big gaping hole of secure messaging

Posted on September 12, 2012 I Written By

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.

Today’s post begins a series inspired by my recent participation in a breakfast panel in Washington, DC, Doctors and Patients Bridging the Digital Divide. There were a lot of useful ideas discussed during this panel, and so I decided to capture and share some with you.

One of the biggest holes in electronic medical records currently seems to be a lack of secure messaging systems built into the software.  Although maybe not universally true, this still represents a huge problem that also represents a great opportunity for gains in technology that will enhance the doctor-patient relationship and move digital healthcare forward into the future.

Currently, my electronic medical record vendor does not supply this feature as part of its software package.  However, as part of the Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements by the federal government, the use of a certified EMR system that supports this function will be required.  A HIPAA-compliant secure messaging system will be needed as a part of every electronic medical record going forward.

Currently, if I wanted to use secure messaging to communicate with my patients, I would have to purchase a separate third-party vendor’s online software to communicate in a HIPAA-compliant fashion.  This involves an additional service agreement between the third-party and me, as well as monthly fees they can be expensive.  This would grant me the right to not only communicate with patients but also to bill third-party insurance companies for providing such electronic health services.  However, what may people do not appreciate is the small reimbursement allowance for such services, which is quite minimal.  Thus, regardless of the demand by patients, it’s currently more financially lucrative simply to see another patient in the office for a follow-up visit rather than answer a message electronically.  If an electronic medical record vendor builds secure patient messaging into their platform, when there is already a contractual arrangement between the doctor and EMR vendor, then a third-party cost would potentially become unnecessary.  The prospect of using a built-in, HIPAA-compliant, secure messaging system suddenly becomes much more attractive and potentially fiscally responsible.

Unfortunately, many EMR systems are in still developing stages at which they do not yet have built-in secure messaging features in their PHR or personal health record modules.

But what a wonderful and potentially powerful area for future development in order to further promote patients to become more engaged in playing a more active role in their own health care.  The ability of a patient to reach their doctor through the Internet is certainly an attractive feature if done right and seems potentially better than a patient spending five minutes on hold listening to elevator music only to finally speak to a front desk staff member who will only be able to forward a message, which may or may not be forwarded accurately.