The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has issued guidelines for implementing Direct Project specifications for secure messaging.

The guidelines are “a common set of policies and practices to ensure Direct is being implemented in a way that will support vendor-to-vendor exchange and interoperability across geographic, organizational and vendor-related boundaries,” according to a blog from Claudia Williams, director of ONC’s state health information exchange program.

The guidelines, reached by consensus during an industry forum in late 2012, are designed to support provider-to-provider communications. ONC strongly encourages health information service providers that offer Direct messaging to abide by the guidelines, as well as organizations that have received ONC grants.

“ONC has found that many health information service providers are deploying Direct in a way that proactively enables exchange within a given HISP’s boundaries while not offering mechanisms or supporting policies that enable exchange with other HISPs,” according to the guidance. “Such limitations effectively block providers using different HISPs from exchanging patient information. In effect, HISPs are creating ‘islands of automation using a common standard.’”

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