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DirectTrust Streamlines 2B Direct Secure Messages Since 2014

The health data exchange has facilitated over 2 billion Direct Secure Messages after a record number of patient data exchange transactions in the 2020 fourth quarter.

DirectTrust has announced it has surpassed 2 billion direct secure messages since it began tracking the statistic in 2014.

This milestone was fueled by a record-breaking 265 million patient data exchange transactions during the fourth quarter of 2020 and 719 million overall transactions in 2020.

"Notably, it took five and a half years for the number of Direct Secure Messages exchanged to reach one billion, and just 18 months to surpass two billion,” Scott Stuewe, president and CEO of DirectTrust, said in a statement. “This milestone illustrates interoperability of electronic health information is here and continuing to gain traction as a means to facilitate better coordinated patient care.”

“As the number of messages exchanged increases, we also are hearing valuable feedback on opportunities,” Stuewe continued. “For instance, the DirectTrust Standards work underway is proposing that messages should contain some additional metadata to inform receivers what a particular message is about and how to handle it. These opportunities promise a robust future of secure and trusted health information exchange."

The nonprofit network reported a major increase in both patient and consumer addresses. The number increased by 89 percent to over 565,000, compared to 299,000 at the end of last year. It also reported the number of customers able to exchange patient data grew by more than nine percent from 2.3 million in 2019 to 2.5 million in 2020.

DirectTrust reported a nine percent increase in its number of providers from 238,000 in 2019 to 259,000 by the end of 2020. Its national network now includes 31 health information service providers (HISPs) in the Accredited Trust Anchor Bundle and 38 accredited healthcare organizations.

Twelve healthcare organizations and vendors also joined the network last year. The 12 additional organizations increased the total membership number to 110. Luma Health, Resmed, and Open City Labs joined in 2020 Q4.

“Over a decade ago, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT kicked-off the Direct Project,” said Steve Posnack, deputy national coordinator at ONC. “The increased use of Direct across the health care system is a testament to the power of community and public-private collaboration.”

DirectTrust rebounded after a massive 13 percent decrease in direct secure messages from 2019 Q1 to 2020 Q1.

At the time, the company explained that COVID-19 was the main cause of the decrease, which led to a drop in referrals and typical procedures.

“We’re pleased to see continued solid growth in the number of organizations served by DirectTrust HISPs, trusted addresses, and patient/consumer addresses,” Stuewe said in May.

“At the same time, COVID-19 impacted Direct exchange transactions. The industry has suffered a huge hit to volume as demand for non-essential health care has come to a screeching halt. In this environment, the number of Direct exchange transactions may be viewed as a canary in a coal mine; a lack of communication among providers as the result of a dramatic falloff in appointments.”

The healthcare alliance built on a record-setting 2019 that saw 811 million Direct Secure Messages, which was a 200 percent increase from its 274 million transactions in 2018.

Prior to COVID-19, in 2019 Q4, the company exchanged roughly 199 million secure direct messages.

“We’re thrilled to see the explosive growth in direct secure messaging we experienced over the past year,” Stuewe said last year. “We attribute this remarkable growth to the rapidly growing number of organizations served by DirectTrust health information service providers, and to the steadily growing number of patients and consumers using direct secure messaging.”

“With a wide variety of applicable use cases and capabilities, direct secure messaging continues to be a proven, cost-effective, and uncomplicated mechanism for secure interoperable data transport,” Stuewe added at that time.

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