How does a Provider participate?

If you, your medical practice, or your hospital uses an EHR for medical record keeping, chances are very high that Direct email is one of the features available to you.  Direct exchange must be integrated into all ONC certified EHR technology capable of meeting the requirements for Meaningful Use. There are now over 1.6 million Direct addresses in use by over 112,000 health care organizations in this country.  While most providers currently use Direct messaging and attachments to communicate with other providers for the purposes of transitions of care, referrals, and for care coordination, we want to invite you to offer secure, interoperable Direct exhange to your patients as well, and to extend this service as one of the ways you promote patient engagement in your practice.
Direct email exchange with your patients and their care givers has many benefits.  First, it can replace telephone, mail, and fax with secure, electronic messaging and file attachments, saving your practice and the patients both time and offering greater assurance that information is actually received and acted upon.  Secondly, for selected patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses that require close monitoring or patients at high risk of complications after procedures or hospitalization, Direct exchange offers you and your practice a secure means of communicating information with patients in a timely manner that might otherwise be missed or delayed.  For example, researchers have found that attendance at scheduled follow-up appointments increases when care teams communicate via email with their patients after hospital discharge, and that Direct exchange can help to optimize transitions of care by providing actionable information to teams of providers involved in coordination of care.
For patients and consumers, access to their health information via a patient web portal may not be enough.  If they have doctors at other institutions, or multiple patient portals, they may wish to move their health information, such as medication list or care summary, between providers and to store health data in a stand-alone PHR application.  A Direct exchange account and address gives patients the freedom they need to control where their information is transferred, when it is moved, and in relationship to their own needs for communication around their health care episodes.  For example, a patient referred to a new provider may want to simplify the transfer of his or her medical history and avoid having to fill out new forms all over again, by using his or her Direct account to securely send medical information to the new provider via Direct exchange.