New leadership and changes coming to the Direct interoperability service

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Scott Stuewe will become president and CEO of DirectTrust on September 1, replacing founder David Kibbe, MD.

DirectTrust, which supports a secure messaging network for exchanging data between providers, patients, vendors and other stakeholders, says Kibbe will pursue new avenues to encourage healthcare data interoperability and will serve as an advisor for Stuewe through the end of the year.

Stuewe is a veteran at Cerner for 24 years who served as director of national interoperability strategy during his last three years at the company. He most recently worked at Data File Technologies, a release of information vendor that works with medical records departments.

For his part, Kibbe says he can’t talk now about his future plans until after the transition ends in December, but he hands off an organization that is seeing good growth in the number of stakeholders using Direct Trust.

In the second quarter of 2018, the number of healthcare organizations served by DirectTrust vendors rose 23 percent to more than 121,000, compared with the second quarter of 2017. Further, the number of Direct patient addresses able to share protected health information rose 52 percent to more than 242,000. The number of Direct provider addresses able to share protected health information rose nearly 19 percent to more than 1.7 million. The second quarter of 2018 saw 50.5 million Direct exchange transactions, up 26 percent from the second quarter of 2017.

Under Stuewe’s leadership, however, a new phase of DirectTrust will start. He wants Direct Protocol, the interoperable exchange that DirectTrust supports, to start collaborating with other interoperability initiatives that could include the FHIR standard, application programming interfaces and apps.

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DirectTrust also is gearing up to become an ANSI-accredited standards development organization to manage changes as new technologies come to the market. The accreditation program will be modeled after Health Level Seven, which offers an international set of standards for transferring clinical and administrative data between software applications.

Despite the progress, the reality remains that most of the healthcare industry isn’t doing robust and secure data exchange, yet there is a growing number of patients with mobile apps who want to exchange information.

“Providers still face challenges, primarily those of implementation and workflow, and of standardizing features and functions to make EHRs easier to use and more interoperable,” Kibbe notes. “Patients face a different challenge: the need for providers to be more open to patients accessing and moving their health data via Direct messaging. We are, however, seeing progress.”

Time is of the essence, Stuewe cautions, as the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is pushing providers to give patients access to their own electronic medical records via apps. Inhibiting growth of apps, he adds, is the lack of a trusted security framework. Electronic health records also will need an API to safely exchange data.

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