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What is a Health Information Exchange (HIE)?

A health information exchange (HIE) is a secure computer network that connects the electronic health information systems of different health care providers, enabling those providers to share clinical and demographic data of patients they have in common. Because different health information systems use their own codes, they may not be able to communicate with each other directly. An HIE, like the one operated by VITL, makes it easier for those different systems to send and receive information. VITL is legislatively designated to operate the health information exchange (HIE) for Vermont.

What does VITL do?

Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc. (VITL) is a nonprofit organization that assists Vermont health care providers with adopting and using health information technology, to improve the quality of care delivery, to enhance patient safety and to reduce the cost of care.

VITL is legislatively designated to operate the health information exchange (HIE) for Vermont, and is governed by a collaborative group of stakeholders including health plans, hospitals, physicians, other health care providers, state government, employers, and consumers.

Where can I find information from the Vermont Department of Health regarding Meaningful Use?

Please visit the Vermont Department of Health website for MU information - http://healthvermont.gov/hc/meaningful_use.aspx

How does a healthcare organization request an immunization interface, or check the status of their interface request?

If you have already signed a VHIE Services Agreement and signed up for the Vermont Immunization Registry interface on the order form, your request is in our queue. VITL works with vendors and lets you know when your vendor is actually ready to begin work. VITL will reach out to you as soon as your vendor and VITL are ready to begin work on the project. For EHRs who were not ready for an immunization interface, VITL will check with those vendors who previously did not meet requirements to assess readiness and technical capabilities for an interface connection.

If you have not signed a VHIE Services Agreement or are unsure, or if you have additional questions, feel free to submit a request via MyVITL.

Where can I find the VITLDirect address of providers I need to send patient information to?

VITL will give you a VITLDirect provider directory. If a provider that you need to send information to is not in the directory, take the same approach to get their fax number—call and ask them for it.

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Will I be able to exchange information with other providers who have a Direct address?

You will be able to exchange with any other provider who has VITLDirect. However,because Direct uses strong security to protect your communications (just like your trusted internet interactions with financial institutions, online retailers, and other secured websites), certain steps may need to be taken to start exchanging information with another provider who is not part of the VITLDirect trust network to ensure that they are a trusted connection.

While much of the technical details of this will be handled by VITL and your EHR vendor, there are a few important points to note on establishing trust with other providers:

  • Based on your system or the other provider’s system, you may be required to indicate your wish to send and/or receive information from the other provider.
  • Depending on the EHR and/or HISP you and the receiving provider are using, you need assistance from your vendor to establish this trusted relationship.
  • Some work between the two vendors may be required in order to communicate. If you have questions about communicating with another provider, check with your EHR vendor or VITLDirect HISP as a first point of contact.

Where can I get a VITLDirect Address?

VITLDirect addresses are available from Vermont Information Technology Leaders. Contact an eHealth Specialist for more information. When obtaining your VITLDirect address, you will be asked to provide information confirming your identity to ensure sensitive patient health information is protected.

Who needs a VITLDirect Address?

Any health care professional who needs to electronically email detailed patient information to another health care professional can benefit from having a VITLDirect address. The VITLDirect address is not limited to meaningful use requirements. For instance, a care coordinator who needs to electronically communicate with a patient’s referral source can use VITLDirect for transmitting protected health information (PHI).

Why Do I Need VITLDirect?

VITLDirect is an option if:

  • Your electronic health record (EHR) does not come equipped with a complete Direct transition of care module/Health Information Service Provider (HISP).
  • Your EHR does not have a Direct module (EHRs not certified to 2014 standards).
  • A Direct module is too expensive.
  • You don’t use an EHR but would like a secure email option for communicating patient information.

VITLDirect functions both as secure email and as a HISP. Because there is flexibility in how providers can meet the exchange measures for Stage 2 Meaningful Use, some EHR vendors require use of their native HISP services, while other vendors allow for other HISPs to be used. Also, some EHR vendors may have preferred HISP partners that they work with and some offer no HISP services at all.

Check with your vendor to learn about the options. Similar to having distinct fax numbers for each office affiliation, you or your colleagues may have a distinct Direct address for each practice affiliation. Check to make sure that you are using the correct Direct address for the location where patient information will be sent.

What is a Direct Email Address?

A Direct address looks very similar to a regular email address, is based on existing email standards, and can be issued to individuals, organizations and departments.

An example of a Direct address is b.wells@VITLDirect.aclinic.org. While this may look and function similar to an email address, it is important to know that traditional email accounts such as gmail, yahoo mail or company email are NOT the same as a Direct addresses. The difference is that Direct follows U.S. national security standards for health information exchange, which VITLDirect does as well.

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