What do independent physicians need to know about direct messaging?

When transmitting messages electronically in the healthcare field, security is extremely important. Patient data is protected by HIPAA regulations, which mandate that electronically protected health information (ePHI) be provided only to those authorized to have access to it. As more independent physicians use technology in their offices and maintain patient data on electronic health records (EHRs), the need to safeguard any information sent via electronic communications becomes paramount.

Direct secure messaging (DIRECT) is a technology tool used by independent physicians to transmit information electronically in a secure message format. DIRECT works much like an email system, but within an electronically encrypted environment that keeps all patient data secure and accessible only to authorized recipients. DIRECT is a “technical standard for exchanging health information between health care entities (e.g. primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals, clinical labs) in a trusted network.”

DIRECT messages are actually more secure than traditional paper notices sent via fax or through the regular mail. These paper records and notes are much more susceptible to compromise than a message sent electronically through a secure system. Sending electronic messages through DIRECT is also a much simpler and quicker process than requesting and waiting for information to arrive via fax or mail.

This ease of transmitting information electronically ensures the complete exchange of patient health information and encourages smooth coordination between visits for both patients and physicians. Coordinated care between multiple providers is made more efficient and more effective when independent physicians and the specialty providers are able to communicate electronically.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) urges independent physicians and specialty provides to use DIRECT as well, primarily because of the security of the transmitted messages. Secure messaging is an important aspect of the CMS Meaningful Use requirements.

Direct secure messaging saves time, reduces potential security issues, and enables independent physicians to reach out efficiently and securely to other providers as well as to their patients with important information regarding those patients’ healthcare.