4E. Direct Project Collaborative
In response to a physician’s observation at a public hearing that there was no easy, secure way for him to send a patient’s information from his electronic health record software application to another doctor’s electronic health record software application, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Direct Project – an initiative to develop a way to help health care providers send electronic information to each other in a way that is both secure and extremely easy to do. HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT decided to execute this project via an open innovation approach that delivered spectacular results. As opposed to convening a wholly internal team to solve the problem, HHS instead posed the problem as a public challenge, launched in March 2010, and invited all willing participants to join a Direct Project Collaborative that would work to develop an answer to the problem via a public wikispace and forums, open and visible to all. Over 60 companies and organizations joined the collaborative. In three months, they hammered out a solution: a protocol for secure health care email over the Internet. The Collaborative executed the first production transactions using this protocol in January 2011. By March 2011, nearly 70 companies representing over 90% of the U.S. electronic health record market had committed to enabling their products to interact with others using the Direct email protocol.