The days of transferring patient information by paper or fax to another healthcare organization in Pennsylvania may be waning.

This is the result of a new grant program that was recently launched by the Pennsylvania eHealth Collaborative.

The Pennsylvania eHealth Collaborative, whose purpose is to improve healthcare delivery and healthcare outcomes in Pennsylvania, is giving out grants to healthcare providers who participate in the DIRECT messaging service. Facilities can use direct messaging to transmit patient care records, referrals, discharge summaries, and other clinical documents to nursing homes, hospitals, and the like.

From now until August 15th, healthcare providers can receive a free year of DIRECT messaging services through an approved health information service provider (HISP). The PA eHealth Collaborative will provide HISPs with $250 for each provider they register.

This effort is related to the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which had a goal of helping states create a health information exchange (HIE). If you recall, a HIE is the mobilization of healthcare information electronically across organizations within a region, community or hospital system.

Pennsylvania was awarded $17.1 million under this Act and is expected to use $2 million for the grant disbursements.

“Direct messaging is based on the Direct Project program, begun two years ago to specify a secure, scalable, standards-based way for healthcare participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet. Overseen by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, this one-way exchange allows any licensed, certified, or regulated healthcare provider to share patient information.”

According to the article, there are approximately 8,000 providers that could take advantage of this grant program. This includes hospitals and related health systems, community/regional clinics, doctors and other licensed providers, pharmacies as well as independent laboratories.

In Pennsylvania, there are still a number of facilities that rely heavily on mailed documents or faxes to transfer patient information. This can lead to a number of problems, including delayed delivery of information as well as lost records and data breaches.

Robert Torres, Health Information Technology Coordinator for PA explains what the new program will offer facilities.

‘”If you’re a health organization that relies completely on paper you can scan the documents, attach a secure direct message through email over the Internet, and at least start sending information that way versus faxing or putting the patient records in the mail. We are hopeful that at the end of the year, if you have engaged in the exchange of health information with your partners, you will realize the benefits of doing it and see some efficiencies in your work flow that hopefully translates into cost savings. One day electronic health information exchange will be the norm, but it will take a while and Direct offers that interim step to get providers there.”

Source: Information Week