Direct Model or HIE Model

Posted on February 15, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

There’s a pretty fierce battle going on right now between all the various stakeholders interested in exchanging patient data. The stakeholders range from very large companies to government initiatives to startup companies. One of the major problems that I see is that it’s not completely clear which model of patient data exchange will win out. In fact, let’s not be surprised if a number of different options take hold.

With this said, I found it interesting that my favorite open source healthcare IT advocate, Fred Trotter, has chosen to get behind the Direct Project. In Fred’s post describing the challenges with the IHE-protocol HIE model approach is flawed and that the direct exchange of healthcare information is the way to go. In fact, he provides the following two illustrations in his post to show the difference:

HIE Model (click on the image to see it full size)

Direct Model (click on the image to see it full size)

Fred then offers this incredibly interesting conclusion:

At every level, organizations are deciding whether to invest in Direct or IHE-based exchange. At this point, I believe the only viable option is for a local exchange to either support Direct only, or both Direct and IHE. IHE is simply going to be too heavy weight for early adoption. Eventually, IHE may become dominate but for now Direct is much simpler, and puts the patient right in the center of everything. If you are a policy maker, you should be asking anyone involved with an HIE process to detail what their Direct-strategy is. If any effort is ignoring Direct and going with IHE-only I would lay odds that they will be broke and defunct before the decade is out.

Moreover, an IHE-only strategy is going to exclude direct participation from patients at this stage. If you care about patient empowerment, I recommend that you advocate for the Direct project at every level, including in your local HIE and REC.

Lots to consider with this complex challenge.

I guess you could say that the direct model is the patient centric model. Although, one could easily argue that the direct model doesn’t have the patient as the center of the model, but instead is a PHR centric model. So, the direct model will be a patient centered model only as much as the PHR software allows the patient to be involved.

Thus, it makes since why Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health are heavily involved in the Direct Project. Of course, they want to be involved in a project that puts them at the center of the communication.

The real question even with the direct model is what incentive do the various PHR vendors have to make this interaction happen? What will be the “cost” that PHR vendors pass on to consumers and/or doctors that use the PHR centric model? Basically, what’s the business model of the PHR vendors?

Unless we can find a PHR centric business model that works for the PHR vendor while still empowering the patient, even the direct model will fail or have adverse outcomes.