The ONC’s Direct Project gives healthcare organizations the opportunity to exchange structured and free-form content.
“I’d like to make a bumper sticker,” says Brian Ahier, president of Gorge Health Connect, Inc. “It would say, ‘Kill the fax.’”
Fax machines have been a staple in the health information exchange (HIE) process for years, but Ahier and others are questioning their continued usefulness as vehicles to transmit sensitive data. In the modern era, where Olympics coverage can be streamed on our smartphones and tweets can lead to revolution, isn’t there a better way to share health data?
Ahier is among those who think there is. “The fax machine is not a secure way of exchanging information. There’s no way to audit that you read and received the information,” he says.
That’s one reason he was eager to work on the Direct Project, a program sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) that brought the healthcare community together to figure out a way to exchange information more securely, easily, and efficiently. “[The ONC] developed an open and collaborative approach to developing standards and services that enable direct, secure messaging over the Internet for health information,” Ahier explains.
Doug Fridsma, MD, PhD, chief science officer and director of the Office of Science and Technology at Health and Human Services, says the Direct Project grew out of the passage of the HITECH Act. “We charged the HIT Standards Committee with looking at the nationwide health information network and the specifications that we had in there and the way in which the nationwide health information network was organized to see how we could leverage that to meet some of the things we needed to accomplish for meaningful use.”
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