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What is Direct?

Launched in March 2010 as a part of the Department of Health and Human Services Nationwide Health Information Network, Direct is a peer to peer messaging standard that has been rapidly adopted as a secure, scalable, standards-based way for providers to send authenticated, encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet. Direct uses SMTP, S/MIME, and X.509 certificates to securely transport health information over the Internet. Direct uses standard e-mail addresses associated with X.509 certificates. Providers are using Direct secure messaging today to comply with Meaningful Use requirements for incentive payments from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Why Direct?

Direct secure messaging aids health plans in the exchange of protected health information with other network providers, hospitals, primary care physicians, long term care, state agencies, and other health care professionals. Direct secure messaging is an encrypted, HIPAA-compliant email-based service that allows users to safely exchange messages and attachments, facilitating communication and coordination of care.

Who uses Direct?

Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, all health care professionals and hospitals are required to use Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology to meet Meaningful Use objectives.  Direct transport is used by these systems to securely transport information that follows a patient through transitions of care and interactions with providers, hospitals, payers and Health Information Exchanges (HIEs).

How is Direct secure?

Security requires encryption of the email message and attachment during transport and verification that the sender and recipient are valid healthcare entities. Most programs require a physical government issued identification before receiving a Direct digital certificate.