Two nonprofit organizations focused on health data exchange — DirectTrust and the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) — have announced an agreement to merge effective Jan. 4, 2023.
DirectTrust is an industry alliance that was created to support secure, identity-verified electronic exchanges of protected health information. There were more than 208 million Direct Secure Messages sent and received within the DirectTrust network during the third quarter of 2022, an increase of just over 9 percent compared with the same period last year. That brings Direct exchange transactions since DirectTrust began tracking transactions in 2014 to nearly 3.5 billion at the end of the third quarter; an average of more than 73 million transactions per month.
EHNAC accredits organizations that electronically exchange healthcare data, including accountable care organizations, data registries, electronic health networks, e-prescribing solution providers, and health information exchanges. The commission is an authorized HITRUST CSF Assessor, making it the only organization with the ability to provide both EHNAC accreditation and HITRUST CSF certification.
With EHNAC’s incorporation into DirectTrust, DirectTrust anticipates bringing to fruition new accreditation programs, with a program focused on Credential Service Providers related to consumer access and use of health data as an early target. (EHNAC recently announced it was working with the CARIN Alliance on a code of conduct accreditation program in an effort to support additional levels of trust related to consumer access to health data.)
EHNAC’s senior leaders, Executive Director and CEO Lee Barrett and COO Debra Hopkinson, will continue to work for and consult with DirectTrust. EHNAC staff members and assessors will also join DirectTrust. The EHNAC Commission will remain intact and be designated as Commissioners overseeing accreditation-specific matters. The DirectTrust Board of Directors will continue as is.
“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 a 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. 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.”
“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,” said Barrett in a statement. “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.”
DirectTrust said its members can expect a continuation of the same membership benefits and experience. Additionally, DirectTrust anticipates its members that pursue and achieve accreditation will experience an improved and streamlined accreditation process upon completion of the merger.
Existing DirectTrust and EHNAC accreditations will continue to be valid and recognized after the merger. Accreditations and accreditation renewals will occur within the newly expanded DirectTrust organization.
Membership in DirectTrust will continue to remain separate from accreditation. EHNAC Accredited Organizations not currently members of DirectTrust are invited to join DirectTrust; DirectTrust membership is not required for accreditation.
Earlier this year, DirectTrust announced it was seeking to develop a new standard to support a voluntary nationwide patient credential and matching ecosystem. The goal of the Privacy-Enhancing Health Record Locator Service (PEHRLS) Ecosystem Consensus Body is to identify existing standards, profile existing standards, and create new standards as needed for a privacy-enhancing record locator along with the interactions of associated actors. The new standard would define electronic interactions among Identity Providers, Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), Health Information Networks (HINs), and a Record Locator Service (RLS).