Last week, five health IT vendors came together to announce the CommonWell Health Alliance, a nonprofit focused on developing a national secure network and standards that will:
- Unambiguously identify patients
- Provide a national, secure record locator service. For treatment purposes, providers can know where a patient’s records are located.
- Enable peer-to-peer sharing of patient records requested via a targeted (or directed) query
- Enable patients and consumers to withhold consent / authorization for participation in the network
Unambiguous patient identity matters
In banking, without certainty about identity, ATM machines would not give out cash. And in healthcare without certainty about identity, physicians are working with one hand tied behind their backs.
This problem will never be solved by the Feds. In fact, Congress has restricted any spending on it by the government at all. Industry working together may be the only practical alternative.
A patient’s health records are no longer confined to a doctor’s office, shelved inside a dusty file cabinet. With the advent of the Nationwide Health Information Network, a framework of standards, services and policies that allow health practitioners to securely exchange health data, medical records digitized to be easily shared between doctor’s offices, hospitals, benefit providers, government agencies and other health organizations, all across America.
This health information exchange is dramatically enhanced by the Direct Project. Launched in March 2010, the Direct Project was created to enable a simple, direct, secure and scalable way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information to known, trusted recipients over the Internet in support of Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements. The Direct Project has more than 200 participants from over 60 different organizations. These participants include EHR and PHR vendors, medical organizations, systems integrators, integrated delivery networks, federal organizations, state and regional health information organizations, organizations that provide health information exchange capabilities, and health information technology vendors.
On February 1, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House announced the first live, production uses of Direct for sending medical records securely among providers. Additionally, EHR and PHR vendors announced support for Direct, allowing many types of system-to-system messaging including sending health information to a patient’s PHR or sending a referral to a consulting physician. These developments are an accelerator to achieving directed health messaging much faster than before predicted, using the Internet!
This month, at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society 2011 Conference (HIMSS 11) in Orlando, Fla., eight Direct Project pilots will be demonstrated and discussed. These projects include a collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs and a regional health information exchange network known as CareSpark; a demonstration that will explain how the Direct Project technical standards and services are being used to securely transport immunization data in Minnesota; and a project that shows how Albany Medical Center is able to send a closed-loop referral from primary care provider to specialist and back.
These and additional projects are included below with a brief description of the work.