Over a number of years, there have been failed attempts to bring electronic medical records (EMR) to the forefront of the medical profession. However, this may be changing in the near future. A new initiative known as “Direct Project” was just announced by David Blumenthal, who is an IT Coordinator for National Health. Blumenthal, along with Aneesh Chopra, Chief U.S. Technology Officer, and other agents for government health care are involved in the project, along with various IT health vendors.
This initiative will involve the use of a standardized protocol that will allow hospitals, physicians and other medical providers to communicate patient medical information without having to resort to proprietary communication protocols. The information that can be shared will include: laboratory results, summary documentation, medical referrals and various other related medical information. This will also allow medical professionals to upload data directly to patient health records. This data network is designed to be compatible with the data transference protocol of the National Health Information Network. However the design for the Direct Project was undertaken by a private/public collaborative effort. This design had been placed under the Office of the National Health IT Coordinator’s leadership.
The HITECH Act was also partly responsible, since it is designed to offer various initiatives to those health care providers that are able to demonstrate a “meaningful use” of their EHRs. The term “meaningful use” refers to the ability to effectively communicate between health care professionals by using their EHR systems. This definition also includes the ability to provide a patient with a health care summary, as well. The technology behind the Direct Project will make this possible by using a secure messaging system which will send a patient an attachment in much the same way as one would send an email. This will keep patients informed and up to date regarding their medical care procedures.
However, the ultimate goal that the Direct Project is focused on is the ability to exchange medical data between providers. This is especially critical in cases where providers and hospitals may be located in outlying areas or in cases of independent physician providers.
It is understood, though that the road to effective EHRs is still a long one. There need to be more technological advances in order to make the communication process a seamless one. However, the advent of the Direct Project is a major step in the right direction towards this universal health care communication.