Wednesday October 13th, 2010-Recently we had a chance to catch up with Drummond Group’s President, Beth Morrow, to discuss the current status of EHR certification from the perspective of the approved certification bodies.  Thanks to Beth, EHR Scope has gained some insight to share regarding the ONC-ATCB certification testing process, as well as the struggles EHR software companies are currently enduring.

“Our biggest challenge is when folks are registering, and want to get in as soon as possible… then the date comes, and they aren’t ready.  The details of running these test scripts are substantial… It is very intensive work and not to be underestimated.”

It is a pleasure speaking with you today Beth. Let’s start with a brief History of Drummond Group.

Beth:  Drummond Group started almost 11 years ago now.  In the beginning, we focused on interoperability testing in the retail and consumer goods industry.  We found the need for disparate systems to come together and communicate was very important.  Our real take-off came with Wal-Mart endorsing Drummond certified AS2 (a digital communication protocol) products.

This endorsement forced [Wal-Mart’s] suppliers to become interoperable. They then had to choose Drummond certified products to run their AS2 testing. That was the beginning of AS2 adoption …That particular skill set developed from reqiring various competing vendors to share information.  So we developed some unique test-tools and processes that fit well into other industries when they saw a need for [those solutions].

Having said that, with healthcare, when we were talking of getting involved withEHR last year…we saw what was going on with stage 1.  We knew that high-functioning interoperability and exchange of information in a secure manner is a critical part of what healthcare needs. It really was an important decision for us… we wanted to get our toe in water, but we also knew that [EHR] was where the healthcare industry was going.  We were very confident in our ability to enter into certification testing.

Other than Wal-Mart, what other industries was Drummond Group involved in prior to EHR certification?

Beth: We were and still are involved in controlled substance ordering systems and prescribing distribution systems (now part of e-prescribing solutions).  When we first started in these ordering systems, it had to do with the prescribing distribution systems.  We are one of the main auditors for controlled substance ordering system software and we work and follow DEA regulations therein. The other piece of this industry has to do with identity…We manage identity interoperability between systems in the Kantera Initiative-and through retail again in network catalogue integration of The Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).

With what other major projects is Drummond Group involved?

Beth: Right now we are very involved in Smart Grid under Department Of Energy stimulus money.  We are leading interoperability for two of the demonstration projects funded under the stimulus for Gridwise.

What are the key issues or criteria that are becoming relevent to EHR companies going into the testing process?  What’s the pass/fail rate?

Beth: Well, we found the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) test scripts to be excellent and they are evolving.  The NIST is working on them and they will be putting-out updates sporadically.  The biggest challenge, we found at Drummond, is when folks are registering and want to get in [to the testing program] as soon as possible, then date comes, and they aren’t ready.  The details of running these test scripts, against their software, are substantial… It is very intensive work and not to be underestimated.  We ask everyone ensure they have done the pre-testing .

It may be that there is not one specific [issue or criteria], but the test itself is very intense.  And so it takes a lot of planning.  Regarding this, our process is as follows:

Once they are registered and we get their terms of agreement signed, they are assigned a test proctor.  We will then setup conference to go through all of the customer’s questions with the test proctor …they also issue test proctoring sheets that actually tell those clients going into the test: Here is what’s being tested and here is what [the ONC] are looking for…

[This process] gives a real good overview of what is expected when you come to test with us.  People give us great, positive comments and think it is very helpful to have that process.  And we like to think that we are very customer friendly.

We have worked with software companies from all over the world and some have different roll-out schedules.  It is difficult to sync changes in product roll-out schedules. It’s not anything unfamiliar with what we have dealt with in the past but I will say that it’s definitely a challenge.

Is there any fee structure hurdles for the smaller vs. larger companies, or is it more of a timeline issue?

Beth: They are all doing very well.  It’s just that it’s intense. Getting ready and being prepared on day-one is really important to the process, preparation is our focus.

What makes Drummond Group’s service independent from other certified testing bodies?

Beth: I think we come with a lot of testing experience.  We are used to dealing with software vendors, we understand them and we have worked with them.  Also, customer service, price… and there is some flexibility in what we are offering.  I think primarily it’s just a matter of speaking-the-language and understanding what they are being asked to do… following all ONC requirements and doing so impartiality.

Does Drummond Group have any certifications beyond the required ONC-ATCB, NIST methods?

Beth: I think Bulk of people really just want to be eligible for CMS incentives.  The CMS Incentives are really their goal, not asking for anything extra.  Skills like interoperability, identity and cyber security are in our background…

Extra added value certifications are in the plans but right now everyone is really driven by stage 1 and getting on the ONC-ATCB certified list.

Where do you see the electronic health records industry going in the long run and internationally?

Beth: Drummond Group has already been approached by companies that are in different countries. These firms have EHR solutions, are interested in being certified and bringing them into the US.  I found this interesting but not necessarily surprising.

But, as we move towards the future, and when you get into exchanging data internationally; then you get into cyber-security of messages: making sure they are secure, authenticated and are transmitted safely… The scenarios are quite varied.

From my experience, once we get into standards being selected for stage 1… are they the same internationally and would those align? How are they being sent? Are they going to connect? Are they going to be secure? And who owns the data?

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