Verizon and Medfx have successfully implemented a pilot project on diabetes care that integrates the protocols and standards of two government initiatives in health care information sharing: the Direct Project and the NWHIN (Nationwide Health Information Network) Exchange.
The Direct Project is an ONC(Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) program to deliver a secure standards-based way for health care organizations to transmit encrypted medical data over the Internet.
NWHIN Exchange is a set of open-source software applications that connect regional state and federal HIEs (health information exchanges).
Announced on April 5, the pilot project incorporates health care data from practices not yet on an EHR (electronic health record) platform, such as Dominion Medical Associates, in Richmond, Va.
The project involves data exchange using the open source Connectfx clinical-exchange Web portal by Medfx, a Warwick, R.I.-based provider of cloud health care IT software.
Dominion sends diabetes patients' paper-based care-management data to an HIE run by Virginia-based health software provider MedVirginia and its sister company, provider network CenVaNet.
Care managers at Dominion and CenVANet-MedVirginia will then use the data to manage the conditions of patients with diabetes and other chronic ailments.
For the project, Verizon's role is to be a certificate authority and verify that senders and receivers are authorized, and Medfx allows records in multiple formats to be securely transferred under a common protocol.
The pilot allows health care practices that have yet to implement EHR platforms to share data along with those that are already using EHR or HIE databases.
Verizon aims to get small physician practices to share data in digital health databases, even if they have yet to use an EHR application.
Small practices and individual physicians are especially burdened by the high costs of implementing an EHR database as well as the lack of compatibility of health care IT systems, according to Verizon.
"From a technology perspective, what we've been able to prove in this production pilot is the actual integration capabilities of non-EMR-based physician practices being able to communicate to and from others without EMR or those with EMR," Gerard Grundler, Verizon's managing principal for health information management, told eWEEK.
Because Dominion has yet to implement an EHR application, the medical practice will print out records from the Dominion HIE platform for its paper-based files.
"This pilot program has great significance because many health care providers still use paper records due to the time and expense involved in deploying electronic record-keeping platforms," Dr. Peter Tippett, Verizon's vice president of security and industry solutions, said in a statement. "By demonstrating that federal guidelines for health IT adoption and secure electronic data exchange actually work, this pilot program is leading the way to the widespread adoption of electronic medical records and the transformation of the U.S. health care system."
The project is able to take unstructured data like that of a fax and allow it to be scanned and shared in an HIE.
"The vast majority of health care is being provided in paper-run doctor practices," Grundler noted.
Through the data-sharing pilot, health care facilities will be able to transition patient care from a temporary or same-day facility to a long-term care center or rehabilitation center, according to Grundler.
"It covers the entire spectrum of where we need to start for PHI [patient health information] exchange in this country and where we all want to end up, all in one pilot," he said.
"By working with Dominion Medical Associates on this trial, we are enabling the physician practice to deliver better care-coordination for patients while maintaining current workflows and processes," Shannon Lodge, director of program development, for CenVaNet, said in a statement. "It is also providing tangible insights into the value of sharing health information digitally and is helping pave the way for Dominion Medical Associates' migration to electronic health records."