- DirectTrust is developing a secure, instant messaging standard to allow physicians to communicate and share protected health information, including file transfers, with each other as well as with patients and other care-team members, the nonprofit association of providers and IT vendors announced this week.
- The standard, called Trusted Instant Messaging+, or TIM+, will allow users to share information in real time, both within an organization and across multiple organizations using disparate technology platforms. Like other popular instant messaging platforms, it will support one-on-one, group and "room"-based messaging, and users will know when their messages were opened, DirectTrust said.
- DirectTrust also issued a call for industry stakeholders to join the TIM+ Consensus Body, a group that will help finalize both the standard and policies governing its use. The members also will help with ongoing maintenance of the standard.
Communication among doctors, care team members and patients is often stymied by the lack of interoperability among proprietary information technology platforms, such as EHRs, and concerns about securing patients' private health information.
But pressure on the IT industry to solve interoperability and security issues has grown as doctors, hospitals and other healthcare organizations collaborate more often to provide medical care to patients.
At the same time, consumers increasingly want convenient digital access to providers. For example, the percentage of consumers who said they want to communicate with their medical providers through secure email grew from 53% in 2016 to 69% in 2019, according to a recent survey from Accenture Consulting.
"Instant communication and collaboration tools are becoming essential equipment in today's modern healthcare setting," Greg Meyer, director and engineer at Cerner, a DirectTrust member, said in a statement.
Noting that providers send text messages now via unsecured applications, Scott Stuewe, DirectTrust president and CEO, said in a statement "there currently is no standard for secure instant messaging in healthcare, especially between disparate systems. Furthermore, use of unsecured messaging poses great risk that HIPAA and other privacy regulations may be violated."
DirectTrust was founded to support and promote direct messaging to share patients' health information among providers, enabling collaboration and communication. It already maintains rules, standards and policies to allow healthcare organizations to send secure, identity verified email-like messages, including attachments, with patients' health information.
EHRs, web portals, and smartphones send and receive these messages by going through an accredited Health Internet Service Provider. Health systems are using direct messaging to streamline communications between departments and across organizations.
The Direct Project, a public-private collaborative sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, developed the Direct standard beginning in 2010. Members of the collaborative included representatives from IT vendors, integrated delivery networks, the American Medical Association, the Veterans Health Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.