Direct Messaging: It’s Time to Get On Board

Direct Messaging: It’s Time to Get On Board

So the optimist geek that I am, when I started to wrap my head around Direct Messaging, I got really excited. Finally, a secure way to email my referral network and medical home neighborhood to communicate about our mutual patients. Then I found out it would include exchange of information using CDAs. You mean we don’t have to hand type all the problem list items and medications we get from specialists reports? We can do data reconciliation without tedious data entry? SCORE a big one for EHR users!

Okay, I’ll slow down since I’m likely speaking Geek to some of you. While the Meaningful Use program has left many wondering if there really is any meaning in the use of an EHR, there have been some really great advances. All EHRs that are 2014 ONC Certified have demonstrated the ability to support Direct Messaging. Direct Messaging, in a nutshell, is HIPAA-secure email communication between verified, trusted medical professionals. There are Health Information Service Providers (HISPs) that act like secure email providers (think Gmail, Yahoo, AOL). We don’t all have to use the same email provider in order to communicate. Nor do colleagues have to use the same EHR, or the same HISP to exchange patient-related email. Direct Messaging ties it all together so we can communicate with each other, regardless of the systems we use.

While this has been a mandatory part of Meaningful Use and a necessary part of EHR certification, it seems many hospitals and health systems know little about this functionality and don’t seem motivated to get on board. It appears that communication regarding patient care is not often at the top of their priority list. This isn’t news to many of us who are used to begging for reports about our patients that have been seen by a specialist or emergency department.

One of the key components of getting a Direct email account, is a trusted verification process. We don’t want patients “pretending to be providers” and have access to this patient-oriented communication network. Office Practicum uses EMR Direct as our HISP. They facilitate verification, onboarding, and manage our Direct email traffic to and from our practices.

A highlight of Direct Messaging  is that it supports the transfer of information between our medical home neighborhood using a standard called a CDA. This allows transfer and presentation of information in a standard format for key patient chart elements like problem list items, allergies, and medications.

You know those reports that you get from specialists at your pediatric referral hospital that are twelve pages long? You spend time combing through them to find out diagnoses and medications which you then have to dutifully hand enter into Office Practicum. What if your OP message inbox had a new tab for external messages? This could be part of your routine message workflow if you were using Direct Messaging.

And wouldn’t it be easier to receive a Direct message from a specialist telling you they just saw a patient of yours and attached the CDA, rather than sorting through a stack of papers to find the information? Just open up the CDA and add the information to the patient’s problem list or medication list without having to enter it by hand–done! Yes, true data reconciliation between the specialist information and your patient chart. I’m not dreaming. This is the intent of Direct Messaging and data exchange using the CDA. So now that I have your attention, call us and get yourself identity proofed and signed up for a Direct email address!

Turns out that many of you are having trouble getting your pediatric referral sources to connect with you. In fact, many of you know more about Direct Messaging than they do! Getting stuck? Reach out to me. I’m happy to help. The Chief Medical Information Officers (CMIOs) of the pediatric hospitals need to find a way to connect with you if they are getting Meaningful Use monies. It’s part of the program. More importantly, it’s great for patient care, sharing of timely information and we get some true meaningful use out of our EHR!!! So come on! Get on the bus! WE are ready, are you???