The Direct Project, which offers secure electronic messaging between providers, now is expanding the service to patients and other healthcare consumers.

A new initiative, the Partnership for Patients Program, hopes to get 1 million consumers on board using the secure email network to connect with providers, researchers and other stakeholders.

David Kibbe, MD
David Kibbe, MD

Individuals who opt to join the service will have access to a network of 58,000 healthcare organizations and 1.2 million email addresses, making secure encrypted and identity-assured communication with providers as easy as using regular email.

“For the public to have real confidence, that security layer really has to be there,” says David Kibbe, MD, president and CEO of DirectTrust, a coalition of 150 provider and vendor organizations that govern the initiative.

Federal agencies in 2010 started developing secure electronic messaging protocols under an initiative that became the Direct Project; nearly all hospitals now using electronic health records are capable of supporting Direct secure messages.

Direct offered to hospitals and physicians a needed provider network that could cross boundaries of organizations and EHRs, Kibbe says.

For now, four health information service providers (HISPs) that are Internet service vendors who apply encryption as data moves between EHRs are supporting the initial consumer launch of Direct messaging. The companies are IdenTrust, iShare Medical, MaxMD and DataMotion. There are about 40 HISPs that are expected to participate in the consumer projects over the next few months.

Personal health record vendors also are working with HISPs to make it easier for consumers to request and receive their electronic health records, a right under the HIPAA law. “That’s where the numbers will really add up,” Kibbe predicts.

Information for consumers on getting connected to Direct secure messaging is available here.

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