DirectTrust is creating a body to establish standards that healthcare organizations and human services providers can use when exchanging data on social determinants of health, the trade organization announced Wednesday.
Healthcare providers are increasingly focused on addressing the ways social determinants of health such as food, transportation and financial insecurity can affect patients' health.
While screening for social determinants has become more common among healthcare providers, they've run into roadblocks when setting up programs to actually refer patients to needed services. That's partly because many human services providers don't use software programs that easily exchange referrals and other data with healthcare organizations.
DirectTrust aims to set standards to facilitate data sharing and is seeking applications from the healthcare, government and IT sector and patients advocates to participate in a panel that will develop consensus recommendations on data exchanges for human services.
"Communications with and between human services providers should be available in existing clinical systems' [electronic health records]," DirectTrust President and CEO Scott Stuewe said in a news release. Healthcare organizations should be able to refer patients to human services providers, track and coordinate care, and measure outcomes of social determinants programs, he said.
DirectTrust's membership includes healthcare providers, insurers and technology companies that use Direct, a technical standard used to exchange patient data through encrypted messaging that complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The new body's work will involve identifying existing standards, including Direct, and possibly developing new standards. The panel may also evaluate using the Direct messaging standard alongside data standards from groups like the Gravity Project and 360x, which are also working on social determinants.
Thirty-eight percent of hospitals participated in DirectTrust in 2019, according to a data brief the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology published this year, making it one of the most widely adopted national networks for healthcare data exchange. The ONC has also been working on standards for exchanging social determinants data.