Patient groups call for Direct to help accelerate data exchange

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The Direct standard, which enables participants to send authenticated and encrypted health data directly to trusted recipients online, could help to accelerate health information exchange efforts, according to a pair of consumer coalitions.

In a joint letter responding to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' request for information on data exchange issued last month, the Consumer Partnership for eHealth and the Campaign for Better Care said that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should map National Provider Identifier numbers to providers' Direct email addresses to create a directory that would enable seamless communication paths.

"HHS could also consider how to offer patients and family/designated caregivers Direct email addresses to encourage provider-patient secure communications," the letter said.

The coalitions also called on HHS to discard what it referred to as "low-value measures" that don't encourage electronic health information exchange.

"HHS should implement a limited set of existing high-value measures that leverage functionalities that are only possible in an electronic environment and that support new payment and delivery models," the letter said. "Many HHS programs have clinical quality measures that will not make a big difference in improving care [e.g., reflect basic competencies, lack evidence on improving outcomes, allow providers to simply check-the-box]."

Additionally, the coalitions said they thought data registries ought to be able electronically interface with data from electronic health records and medical imaging systems, among other sources, as well as transmit data electronically to third parties like vendors and CMS. "Registries should use standards for common data elements, such as LOINC codes for laboratory data, and NCPDP standards for pharmacy data," the letter said.

In its comment letter to HHS and ONC, the American Hospital Association said it does not want the federal government placing any additional health information exchange requirements on providers. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, meanwhile, called on HHS to extend processes developed under the eRx and Electronic Health Record Incentive Payment programs to accelerate and improve health data exchange and interoperability among providers.

To learn more:
- read the comment letter (.pdf)

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