I have been working on a contract to help the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) State HIE Program host a Direct Boot Camp in Chicago, IL on April 12 – 14, 2011. So I spent a few days this week working at the Boot Camp helping the ONC bring states up to speed on the Direct Project. But the Boot Camp went well beyond Direct basics to focus on implementation details to help States who are planning on implementing Direct learn from experiences in the field and take their next implementation steps. The Boot Camp was geared explicitly toward states that are implementing Direct as part of their strategic and operational plans under their cooperative agreement with the ONC. I was pleased to be part of the excellent team of ONC staff and consultants that organized and facilitated the event. The meeting agenda and materials are now posted on the Direct Project wiki and there was some good discussion using the #ONCDirect hashtag on Twitter. There was also some rich discussion during the Q&A portions of each session and I encourage you to read through the session notes available on the wiki.
Much of the impetus for incorporating the Direct Project into their state plans was the result of the Program Information Notice (Document Number: ONC-HIE-PIN-001), known as the PIN, sent to the states on July 6, 2010. One section of the PIN requires the states to
Set Strategy to Meet Gaps in HIE Capabilities for Meaningful Use — Develop and implement a strategy and work plan to address the gaps in HIE capabilities as identified in the environmental scan with a focus on delivery of structured lab results, e-prescribing and sharing patient care summaries across unaffiliated organizations. Gap-filling strategies might includeTo meet these requirements many states have plans to use direct messaging in a phased approach as an onramp towards more robust HIE services. But due to the flexible nature of a cooperative agreement, as opposed to being a straight grant, the states have been working with the ONC to fine tune their plans. Many of these states had their plans approved before the Direct Project was able to provide working code. As the Direct Project has developed, some of the states thinking around deploying direct messaging services has evolved. And there is also continuing maturity in the marketplace, with vendors offering services that have allowed the states to back away from providing centralized services themselves and moving towards a more market based approach.
Therefore, many states that were originally planning to to act as a Health Information Service Provider (HISP) themselves are now moving towards creating a preferred vendor list for HISPSs and monitoring the market to ensure coverage for all the providers in their state. A HISP is an entity that provides services that are required for Direct Project exchange, such as the management of trust between senders and receivers. Using the HISP model, offerings are emerging that provide some of these services
There are also states planning to use Direct to help with interstate exchange. This is an area that will need further development, as we weave through the spaghetti of various consent laws around the country, but ultimately getting exchange happening at a broad scale will obviously include interstate exchange. Some of the nation networks being launched, such as AAFP/Surescripts and Verizon presented during the boot camp and helped the states to shape some of their thinking in this area. There was a lot of discussion about Provider Directories as well, which I will leave to a future post. It was a very interesting experience to work with the ONC and the various states to further integrate the Direct Project into their plans and I expect we will see this help to drive further adoption and use of these standards and specifications.
The list below shows the currently approved state specific strategic and operational plans for creating health information exchange capacity. Not all of these states are incorporating Direct Project into their plans.