Direct Messaging Can Help You Comply With Federal Information-Sharing Law


As you might be aware, the 21st Century Cures Act requires you to give patients prompt access to significant portions of the patient’s electronic health information (EHI) upon request.

But did you know that under the law, you need to be able to electronically share patient information with other physicians who request it?

Direct messaging offers a secure, HIPAA-compliant method for sharing patient information – such as when sending or receiving referrals – and to receive timely notifications when a patient is admitted, discharged, or transferred to an emergency department.

You also can use direct messages to extract or input patient information in an electronic health record (EHR), reducing data entry.

Direct messages are similar to email, but the contents are encrypted so that only the recipient can receive and read the information.

“Direct messaging streamlines encounter notification and the referral process by sending and receiving information in a standardized manner electronically within a physician’s workflow,” Manish Naik, MD, told Texas Medicine Today. Dr. Naik is a member of the Texas Medical Association’s Health Information Technology Committee and chief medical information officer for Austin Regional Clinic.

Two public Texas health information exchanges (HIEs) offer direct messaging:

  • Greater Houston HealthConnect (GHH) provides services for $75 annually per address. Request more information, including how to set up an address, via email.
  • HASA in San Antonio offers services that are limited to secure email-style mailboxes for $6 per month, but is offering this for free for one year to the first 100 requestors. HASA charges $27 per month to fully integrate direct messaging, as well as other data sharing, into its HIE. Email HASA for more information.

Two other public HIEs in Texas do not offer direct messaging services, but can assist with patient emergency department notifications and information-sharing services:

  • Rio Grande Valley HIE provides a secure portal for physicians to view alerts from participating hospitals and access to the provider portal for $25 per month. Get more information via email or by calling (956) 622-5801.
  • Paso Del Norte Health Information Exchange (PHIX) in El Paso has secure messaging, emergency department alerts and other services to facilitate information sharing. Get more information via email or by calling (915) 242-0674.

DirectTrust, a nonprofit trade alliance, lists on its website other national HIEs that offer direct messaging. For more help, you can also contact TMA’s Health Information Technology Department via email or by calling (800) 880-5720, or visit TMA’s 21st Century Cures Act Resource Center.  

Last Updated On

September 08, 2022

Originally Published On

April 16, 2021

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