by David C. Kibbe, MD MBA
For those of you who may not have heard, DirectTrust was recently awarded a Cooperative Agreement under the Exemplar Health Information Exchange Governance Entity Program being run by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), a division of the Department of Health and Services (HHS). The grant period started on March 25, 2013, and will continue for one year.
Certainly, the award of this Cooperative Agreement and its funding in the amount of $280,000 is strong recognition of the solid work that DirectTrust members have accomplished over the past year and a half in building a Security and Trust Framework for Direct, and validation of the accreditation program for HISPs and CAs that we've partnered with EHNAC to offer to this large community of interest.
But I think what is says even more importantly is that collaboration is essential in making progress on standards for health information exchange. Organizations of all types in healthcare -- including health IT firms, provider groups, health plans, HIEs and HIOs, and governmental agencies -- are best served if they do not continue to try to “go it alone” with health information exchange, but instead move to agree on, adopt, and promote compliance with uniform, consensus-based, and to the extent possible, tested and proven security and trust-in-identity policies and practices.
In particular, DirectTrust's success to date carries the message that healthcare organizations interested in data sharing can mutually benefit by rethinking how they engage with one another in the interest of helping individuals, both providers and patients, to allow health data and information to move more freely to where it is needed. What is being "re-thought" is how to make it possible for all those individuals and their organizations to trust how data about them is being moved and being re-used.
It's not an easy task to collaborate. We haven't finished the job yet. We might still fail, as there is always going to be a tension borne of narrow,proprietary interest that pushes back against collaboratiion and common cause. There will be attacks and criticism from those who say we're not doing enough, or that their goals are more important and deserving of support. It's also hard to persuade people that they ought to take a greater interest in their own health information and how it affects the care they provide or receive, and how something as simple as email plus attachments can measureably improve the outcomes of that care.
But I'm encouraged nonetheless, and very grateful to the many people and organizations that remain committed to collaboration within the growing community that is DirectTrust. This will be a very interesting year under the Cooperative Agreement with ONC, and I know one thing for certain: either we continue to collaborate or we will not succeed in reaching our goals.