DirectTrust, a nonprofit healthcare industry alliance created to support secure, identity-verified electronic exchanges of protected health information, and the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission have agreed to merge EHNAC into DirectTrust, effective January 4, 2023.
WHY IT MATTERS
Incorporating EHNAC, the nonprofit standards-development organization and accrediting body for electronically exchanged healthcare data, enables DirectTrust to advance new accreditation programs.
An early target, according to the announcement, is a Credential Service Providers program related to consumer access and use of health data.
“We’re thrilled the long-standing relationship between EHNAC and DirectTrust is reaching its full potential with this merger,” said Scott Stuewe, DirectTrust president and CEO, in the statement.
“This unequivocal demonstration of our mutual dedication to facilitating trust will enable both parties to optimize their complementary strengths to create new opportunities for trust and assurance in the healthcare industry, especially in the age of TEFCA,” he added.
The EHNAC commission will remain intact and will be designated as commissioners overseeing accreditation-specific matters, while the DirectTrust board of directors will not change. Existing DirectTrust and EHNAC accreditations will continue to be valid and recognized after the merger, with renewals occurring within an expanded DirectTrust organization.
DirectTrust members can also expect a continuation of the same membership benefits and experience, and those that pursue accreditation will experience an improved and streamlined process, the alliance says.
EHNAC-accredited organizations not currently members of DirectTrust may join the alliance, but DirectTrust membership is not required for accreditation.
EHNAC’s senior leaders Lee Barrett, executive director and CEO and COO Debra Hopkinson will continue to work for and consult with DirectTrust, along with EHNAC staff members and assessors.
DirectTrust and EHNAC will host a public information session about the merger on Friday, December 9.
THE LARGER TREND
The two organizations have worked for several years to develop standards and trust systems for the healthcare sector.
EHNAC recently partnered with the multi-sector CARIN Alliance, which works across the public and private sectors on compliance with digital health information sharing to create the voluntary CARIN Code of Conduct Accreditation Program.
The standards organization also updated its Trusted Dynamic Registration & Authentication Accreditation and Trusted Network Accreditation programs to align with the new CARIN program.
Earlier this year, DirectTrust launched the Privacy-Enhancing Health Record Locator Service Ecosystem (PEHRLS) consensus body to support a voluntary nationwide patient credential and matching ecosystem. New PEHRLS standards are expected to define electronic exchanges between providers, electronic health record systems, health information exchanges, health information networks and a record locator service.
Direct secure messages, the electronic exchange of protected health information among provider organizations and between clinicians and patients, topped 945 million transactions in 2021. A significant uptick at 31% over the total in 2020 indicated significant growth for DirectTrust.
“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,” said Stuewe in a February 2021 statement about the alliance’s previous transactions milestone.
ON THE RECORD
“It’s exciting to bring together our accreditation and standards development focus areas, while also enhancing opportunities for DirectTrust’s membership. Our goal is to be the nation’s premier healthcare-focused accreditation, standards development and technical trust partner,” Stuewe said in the announcement.
“This merger of expertise, resources and technology leverages EHNAC’s accreditation programs as a ‘recognized security framework’ and is an inevitable culmination of the years our organizations have spent ensuring stakeholder trust,” Barrett added.
“By combining with the membership, standards development, technical trust and accreditation capabilities of DirectTrust, we’ll be able to further support DirectTrust members, EHNAC-accredited organizations and the industry as a whole to navigate the privacy and security hurdles that continue to afflict healthcare. Additionally, we’ll be able to continue our combined focus on interoperability initiatives to assist the healthcare ecosystem meet industry initiative timelines,” she said.
Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.