Encryption 09-04-2015

How the Direct Protocol Benefits Patients

Scott Rea

Recent healthcare data breaches have burdened healthcare organizations financially. The Ponemon Institute reports that healthcare data breaches cost organizations $363 per stolen record, which is above the $154 global average cost of data breaches in other industries. Another study by Ponemon showed that in the last two years, 65% of healthcare organizations reported electronic information being stolen or misused in some way.

These data breaches are alarming for healthcare providers, but they are equally alarming for patients who may lose trust in providers after seeing breach after breach on the news.

Direct Messaging

The Direct Protocol adds the needed security for transmitting patient’s personal health information (PHI) between all the organizations who will need to see it, such as insurance providers, healthcare providers, specialists, and patients. In other articles, I explained how Direct messaging is the solution for healthcare organizations to secure their transmissions. But the benefits of Direct messaging can also greatly benefit patients. Below are a couple of the benefits.

Secure Access to Patient Information

Patients can access their information anywhere they have access to the Internet. The Direct Protocol could allow patients to access their PHI through an authenticated and secure platform such as Microsoft Health Vault, Google Fit, Apple Health, and Samsung M-Health (Health Vault has already integrated Direct messaging, the others have yet to release this functionality).

By having access to their PHI, patients can verify that the information is correct and up-to-date, manage their health more closely, and share it more easily with healthcare and wellness professionals they choose to work with. Incorrect or out-of-date PHI could result in sub-optimal or delayed heathcare services, and often would lead to unnecessary duplication of services when multiple providers share the responsibility of caring for a patient.


Authentication is the security service that ensures you know exactly who is communicating with you at the other end of a remote transaction. Strong authentication is required to secure a patient’s PHI. When using open networks, such as the Internet to facilitate ease of communication, transmitted information may go through different channels before it makes it to its destination. Unencrypted information could be intercepted and viewed by a malicious third-party.

Direct can secure those transmissions, assuring patients that their PHI is being protected and only viewed by those they intended to share it with. Direct messaging requires each endpoint to be securely identified with a particular digital certificate which provides the function of proving to any remote party the identity of the sender or receiver at the other end of their transaction.

Direct messaging, when used within the DirectTrust network, provides a secure and safe way for patients to share and manage their own private health information with the highest level of assurance that is only accessed by the healthcare providers they choose.


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