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  • April 05 2011


    Cerner and the Direct Project: Next Steps

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    As a follow up to the previous Direct Project post, which highlighted the essentials of the Direct Project and included a historical account of Cerner's involvement to date, this post will focus on our plans to leverage the Direct Project standards to solidify a network of health participants.

    Kill the fax. Please!

    The Direct Project represents a set of standards that enable health professionals to communicate securely with one another using the familiar concept of email. With that idea in mind, “eliminating the fax” is an obvious initial objective. Any workflow that utilizes fax to communicate health information is a target. For us, this begins with providing an adaptor to Millennium's Remote Report Distribution (RRD) that delivers reports as attachments via a secure Direct channel, rather than to a paper-based fax machine. Email rather than fax? What a concept!

    On the other end of that directed communication often sits an organization whose current investment in technology is minimal. For these organizations, we've created the Cerner Direct Inbox, a simple web-based secure email solution providing a cost-effective option for health professionals to exchange ad hoc secure messages within and outside their organization. It contains basic, but meaningful aspects of standard email, allowing users to securely send and receive health information with support for attachments of virtually any type, read receipts, etc.

    Both of these solutions are being used in our first production Direct Project pilot implementations. Evaluation of these solutions is already underway to determine and announce readiness for general availability.

    Extend the reach of the organization.

    Enterprise applications traditionally deliver excellent methods of communicating within the organization, but stumble when that boundary needs to be crossed. Once again, fax and phone become the method of communication outside the organization. Over the years, there have been requests for “secure messaging,” but with no non-proprietary standard by which to deliver an acceptable workflow. Frankly, printing the information and faxing it is easier than using and operating today's options.

    Fortunately, the Direct Project introduces a standard that provides hope for user-friendly, inside-outside messaging workflows. So much so, that we're incorporating Direct Project standards into our Millennium EMR/EHR acute and ambulatory solutions, enabling health professionals to use Message Center to securely communicate with external recipients.

    Engage the patient.

    What's good for health professional-to-health professional communication is also useful to the health professional-to-patient interaction. Imagine a scenario as simple as requesting your children's immunization records from their pediatrician at the beginning of the school year. With Direct, the office sends them to you electronically and you forward a copy on to the school nurse. You have a copy. The school has a copy. Done.

    Direct will be used to send health information, summaries of recent visits, and reminders about preventive or follow-up care to patients. To reduce barriers to engaging people to better manage their health, Cerner Health is being Direct-enabled, offering users a means to communicate easily and securely with their entire health management team. Sign up for a Cerner Health account, establish a Direct-secured email address and begin using that channel to communicate with your health team.

    Mix and match.

    Obviously, it's early. We're at the beginning of a substantial opportunity for incorporating simple and safe communications into workflows for managing health, with the basic goal of getting information to flow between the people who need it, despite their organizational and geographic boundaries.

    We see Direct being included in:

    • Cerner Hub to support system-level communications to endpoints that don't have an EHR
    • ePrescribing
    • Workflows in which communication with an external recipient is key:
    • Referral management
    • Care management
    • Payment verification
    • Asynchronous request-reply services
    • Scheduling
    • Document coding
    • Long-term care availability

    And, because we know we can't build every innovative solution that will incorporate Direct, we're deploying cloud-based HISP (Health Information Service Provider) services that other software developers will be able to use to minimize the amount of effort/investment necessary to gain access to Direct communications.

    While it's a simple concept (as in: “Why wasn't this done years ago?”), we see the Direct Project being an exciting step in creating a network of health participants.

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