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3/30/2011
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Direct Project Rapidly Advancing Health IT Interoperability

More than 60 healthcare and health IT organizations are supporting the federal government's push for authenticated, encrypted health information to be shared with trusted recipients over the Internet.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
If the Direct Project's objectives continue to be advanced at a fast clip, widespread adoption of universal addressing and access to secure direct messaging of health information could soon be provided to healthcare stakeholders that serve up to 160 million Americans.

Those are the latest figures from officials at the Direct Project, a program that began one year ago to specify a secure, scalable, standards-based way for healthcare participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet.

To keep healthcare stakeholders abreast of the latest development, the Direct Project announced March 22 that over 60 healthcare and health IT organizations, including many state-based and private-sector health information exchanges (HIEs), leading IT vendors, and several leading integrated delivery systems, have planned support for the Direct Project.

One of the vendors supporting the Direct Project is Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, a health IT provider. As part of the Direct Project, Allscripts has partnered with Albany, N.Y.-based Albany Medical Center to transform disconnected paper processes into connected, electronic transactions that improve physician collaboration and make healthcare interoperability a reality. As a result of the project, the hospital's discharge summaries will soon be routed to the patient's primary care provider via an automated exchange over the Internet. The primary care provider will also be able to refer patients to specialists and receive results back upon completion of those consultations.

In an interview, Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman said the Albany Medical Center project breaks new ground since it relies upon new federal standards for information exchange. He added that the Direct Project will not only accelerate interoperability among health systems, but will also accelerate electronic health record (EHR) adoption.

"This program will drive EHR adoption because it will provide a level of comfort with the power of technology for those who have been slow to adopt, Tullman said. "For those who are only minimally using an EHR, this should increase utilization once providers see what the technology can do for them."

Among health IT vendors, support for the Direct Project represents approximately 90% of market share, officials said. Additionally, with over 20 states participating in the project, including many of the largest states in the country, nearly half of the total U.S. population can now benefit from the Direct Project's growing integration into the national health IT ecosystem, the organization said.

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