Submitted by David Kibbe, Clinical Groupware Collaborative

Considering that the Direct Project is, at its most basic, "a system for secure email for physicians, their colleagues, and their patients," then some of the benefits that physicians can derive from the Direct Project include:

- Easy to use. The Direct Project will be valuable to physicians in small and medium size medical practices who need an easy, immediate, and affordable way to send other physicians and their own patients health data and information that has to be be secure during transport. All they need to get started is an e-mail client software, a connection to the Internet, and a HISP to help them register their Direct Project addresses.

The Direct Project is based upon a universal addressing system and standard Internet transport protocols that put the "@" into medical communications, making them as easy to perform as regular e-mail. Even physicians in large organizations -- who typically have their own internal, password-protected messaging systems -- will find the Direct Project indispensable in reaching outside their organizational boundaries to communicate with physicians and patients who aren't authorized users of their organization's network.

- Replaces the hassle and costs of the fax machine. In the past, the fax machine and telephone lines were the most convenient way to move health documents from one practice to another. The Direct Project will allow physicians to replace paper and fax machines with secure messaging that's both practical and inexpensive.

- Helps meet Meaningful Use criteria at low cost, with or without new software. Meaningful Use criteria include the requirements to be able to electronically exchange health data with other physicians, and to send patients who request one a Clinical Summary in either CCR standard or CDA CCD structured data formats, as well as in human readable versions of these such as PDF or Word. Physicians with Direct Project addresses will be able to meet these requirements in a stand-alone manner using familiar e-mail clients, or in conjunction with their purchase of either EHR modules or complete EHRs.

- Freedom to choose the method of health care related communications that's best for you, your practice, and your patients. The Direct Project is a set of open policies, protocols, and standards -- not a software product. There will be a whole range of EHR technology products that are Direct Project-compliant: that is, that have the Direct Project protocols embedded in them. Because Direct Project addresses are independent of the brand or maker of the technology used, physicians with Direct Project addresses will have the freedom to select among EHR technologies without the fear of being "locked in" to a particular vendor. Similarly, physicians will be free to move their Direct Project accounts from one health Internet service provider, or HISP, to another while keeping the same Direct Project address, in much the same way that we are free to switch from one wireless provider or cable company to another.