On Nov. 13, CCHIT Chair Mark Leavitt announced his retirement. A physician with strong past ties to HIMSS, Leavitt had done much both before and after HITECH to move CCHIT forward, but questions about those past connections seemed to dog CCHIT as the role of certification became more and more integral to the adoption of healthcare IT. Coming just over a month after speaking with HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra (Oct. 6), and less than two weeks after the first competitor to CCHIT emerged (Nov. 2), the organization will conduct its search for a replacement in a rapidly evolving competitive and regulatory landscape. Recently, Guerra obtained the first interview with CCHIT Trustee & Search Committee Chair Frank Trembulak, who will seek the right person to steer CCHIT through these uncertain waters.
GUERRA: Can you tell me which search firm you’re using?
TREMBULAK: Yes, Egon Zehnder International.
GUERRA: Any information about how or why you selected that company?
TREMBULAK: The board of trustees went through a competitive process identifying several national firms, and actually Egon Zehnder is an international firm as the name reflects. We interviewed two or three firms and decided that the attributes in their response to our request, and the interactions with the consultant, were very favorably inclined to the caliber of person or position we’re recruiting. So we selected them, and we’ll be finalizing and working through some of these details next week.
GUERRA: Can you tell me anything about the parameters you’ve given this company, in terms of what type of individual you’re looking for?
TREMBULAK: We’re right in the middle of that, Anthony. We are drafting and updating a position profile. On Monday I have a conference call with Egon Zehnder to get some input that they will use to interview trustee members, and also commissioners within the organization, to flesh that out and finalize that. Then we’ll be posting that on our Web site as a very transparent process, so everyone understands and sees the caliber and the nature of the position we’re recruiting.
GUERRA: It sounds like you’re not ready to give me specifics, in terms of the qualifications you’re looking for.
TREMBULAK: Generally speaking, and this will be refined, we’re looking for someone that has a good depth of knowledge and experience in health information technology combined with, of course, a working knowledge of the healthcare field. So that’s the baseline, and then it’s finding someone with that breadth of experience at the leadership level who has demonstrated skills and strategic planning.
GUERRA: What about someone with specific experience around certifying products or software? Is that important?
TREMBULAK: No, I don’t think so, in particular because of where we are today as an organization. Under Dr. Leavitt’s leadership, we’ve matured the process of identifying and determining certification needs and requirements through the board of commissioners, which is an all-voluntary board, as you probably are aware. So I think we have a good process in place, supported by Alisa Ray, our executive director, and staff, as well as all other voluntary staff. I think we have a rather proven track record now and framework of going about this. Not to say we’re not always looking to improve it and change it, but someone coming in really needs more of a breadth of knowledge of the HIT field and healthcare generally. The certification framework, I think, sets a foundation. So therefore, their facilitation skills would be important.
GUERRA: A lot of the negative comments about CCHIT, and Mark Leavitt in particular, had to do with the connections to the vendor community. Mark, at one time, was with HIMSS and HIMSS was one of the founding members. Is it going to be one of your goals to find someone with no ties or less ties to the vendor community to get away from some of that controversy?
TREMBULAK: Well, I think we’re going to look for the right person, whether that person has, in their past, any relationship to the vendors I can’t say. We’re going to look for the right person, with credibility and a skill set. I, myself, represent a provider. CCHIT has a lot of constituency members and a lot of providers from hospitals and physician representatives. So I think there’s been a very fair and balanced objective program established and operated by CCHIT through both its board of commissioners and its board of trustees. So we would expect to be able to maintain that.
GUERRA: Was there any connection between Mark retiring and the announcement of CCHIT’s first competitor, which happened only 11 days before?