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One-on-One With The Drummond Group CEO Rik Drummond, Part I

November 12, 2009
by Anthony Guerra
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Rik Drummond says his company is entering the EHR-certification market at the request of HIT vendors.

For years now, CCHIT has been the only certification game in town. Pre-HITECH, the organization both created certification criteria and tested vendors against that criteria. Post-HITECH, everything has changed. Recommendations from the federal HIT Policy Committee indicate that CCHIT will not be able to perform its dual roles, leaving it to only handle the testing function. The committee also encouraged others to get into the testing game, injecting market dynamics and competition into this new niche of healthcare IT. After a few months of silence, CCHIT’s first competitor has emerged – the Austin, Texas-based Drummond Group. Recently, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra had a chance to chat with CEO Rik Drummond about his decision to enter this evolving market.

GUERRA: Could you give me a brief overview of your company, and some context as to why you are qualified to test EHRs against the certification criteria HHS creates?

DRUMMOND: Well, we’re new coming to this area with respect to the HL7 part of things, even though we’ve been involved in that off and on since 2000. We were the original people helping the early groups that actually looked at ways to transport the documents around in a secure manner, but we’ve been tracking this for 10 years off and on.

Our company focuses on interoperability for all sorts of different software, to ensure the information flows appropriately back and forth between different entities in a secure private manner. We usually do about 10 different standards a year, and we do a lot in retail, automotive, consumer packaged goods. Right now, we’re probably one of the key leaders in doing the same sort of thing we’re talking about right here for the North American Power Grid, which is another one of Obama’s key focuses coming out of ARRA Title IV.

GUERRA: You said you’ve been approached by numerous EHR software and services companies that need to be certified. Can you just expand on that, even if you’re not willing to name the companies?

DRUMMOND: Since we’re neutral, we never name companies unless we have appropriate release on that, so I really can’t name them. A lot of companies – those who look like they’re focused on the doctors’ offices and smaller hospitals, outpatient, ambulatory type stuff – have been coming to us for the last six or seven months asking if we can help them get certified, asking if we can get involved in this.

My read would be they seemed to feel like they’re being left out of the current certification regime. I’m not completely sure in all detail why that is but, because of that, because we do certification in such broad areas for interoperability, we decided now is the time to enter this market, especially since the ARRA Act Title IV threw a lot more resources at this area. 2011 is approaching very rapidly, and people have to start moving this way if they want to achieve meaningful use.

So we figured it was probably time. If we look at other supply chains, which we do a lot of work in, we see that about 80 to 90 percent of all the people participating in the information flow in the supply chain are small or medium vendors, are small or medium companies. The same is happening here, and my read would be that some of the smaller ones don’t think they’re being taken care of. I don’t know if that’s key or not because I’ve looked at the CCHIT stuff and it looks like they’re doing a pretty decent job of putting together the stakeholder groups and putting together the testing regimes.

GUERRA: So you don’t have a better sense of whether they feel the current pricing is too high or if the certification process is too long? You’re not getting a more definite sense of what it is they’re coming to you for?

DRUMMOND: We’ve been kind of overwhelmed with a lot of this for the last three or four weeks, so we’re going back to interview some of them just to see what the actual problem is. I should know more in probably three or four weeks.

I expect that this is like normal testing where pricing is always an issue. Every test that anyone does, people think it’s too high because it’s one more cost to add in the end. The flipside is we find that once people understand what pricing gives them – it’s almost the last part of their software cycle – they see the cost is not nearly as high as they would anticipate, because it’s a cost of shifting from internal testing to external testing, and it also gives them a big marketing boon because someone is stamping their seal of approval on you, you’ve met these conditions. And that marketing boon is worth anything, you pay for that sort of thing.

GUERRA: Why did you decide to get into this business when there are so many questions around how everything will actually work?