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8 keys to using the Direct secure messaging network
The Direct standard for exchanging health information enables primary and specialty physicians, hospitals, laboratories and other healthcare entities to share data. For Stage 2 of the electronic health records meaningful use program, vendors were required to certify their proprietary transitions-of-care modules or add Direct messaging into their electronic health record system. Here is a look at how Direct messaging works.
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Understanding Direct address
The Direct standard is based on existing email standards and looks much like an email address, but includes security measures to ensure a message is accessible only to the intended recipient. Direct addresses can be issued to individuals, organizations, departments or specific devices. Just like fax numbers that organizations may have, a distinct Direct address can be given to each practice affiliation.



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Getting a Direct address

Direct addresses are available from electronic health record vendors, state health information exchanges, regional and local HIEs private vendors acting as Health Information Service Providers. EHR vendors must certify their Direct offering, manage HISP services themselves or partner with a third-party HISP, or provide Direct services to their providers.
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Obtaining other Direct addresses

Providers need to know the Direct addresses of other providers to which they refer patients, or need information from which they need patient information. Some electronic health record and HISP vendors include a provider directory with Direct addresses. If a directory is not offered, call the vendor and ask for it.
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Working with providers that aren’t using Direct
Encourage other providers with which the organization frequently works to sign up for Direct to improve communication. Almost every state has Direct services available. Some implementations of Direct enable sending a message to another provider encouraging them to sign up for Direct services and begin sending patient information.
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Sending transition of care documents
While all certified EHR technology must support Direct functionality, vendors also may have other certified options that can exchange information either point-to-point or through an HIE. Ask vendors about their transitions of care options.
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Worrying about spam
Direct users need not worry about getting spammed if they use their Direct address with others. Direct has security measures that prevent a recipient from getting messages from individuals they do not trust. This means spam is highly unlikely.
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Exchanging with other providers
Direct uses strong security to protect communications just like trusted internet transactions with financial institutions, online retailers and other secure web sites. However, certain steps may need to be taken to start exchanging data with another provider to ensure they are a trusted connection. Vendors can help establish a trusted relationship with a new provider.