Rik Drummond heads Drummond Group Inc., one of six entities authorized by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to certify Complete EHRs and EHR Modules. To date the company has certified more than 120 products for Stage 1 meaningful use criteria.

Drummond said that very few products passed the Stage 1 criteria on their first pass, a fact he owes not necessarily to weaknesses in the software but the newness of a testing program for the market. “This is very complex technology, and this is the first time electronic records software had to go through a third-party testing process. So the results are pretty much what I would have expected.”

Going forward, one area Drummond feels need to be clarified is interoperability certification. While hundreds of products have been certified they conform to current interoperability standards, that doesn’t mean they are actually interoperable when loosed into the health care ecosystem.

“There’s no clear market meaning for interoperability, and it’s a term that’s misused a lot in this industry,” he says. “There are too many relationships and connections in health care to say for certainty a product is interoperable at a 100 percent confidence level, unless it’s actually tested in the field with other products.  There are different data exchange standards being used by different groups of products, and if a product using standard X has a 95 percent confidence level it can interoperate with a product using standard Y, that’s not good enough. “

Drummond understands why National HIT Coordinator David Blumenthal, M.D., said during a keynote address Wednesday that interoperability and privacy/security for data exchange will be tightened up in the next stages of the meaningful use incentive program. Both areas need attention, Drummond says. “One thing in particular that sticks out me is that there are no real security standards around transfers, like e-mail and FTP, over open networks that health care is moving into,” Drummond says.  “There has to be set standards that everyone can build to, to establish trusted connections. There have to be uniform requirements and techniques—that’s not there yet.”

Drummond also has a long-term concern about the cleanliness of data as health care organizations push more of it to a whole new spectrum of entities, including patients. The problem as he sees it, is who’s going to correct that data and keep is clean as it flows back and forth. “Having the correct data can be a life-and-death issue, but I’m not sure how that can be kept clean. Patients will find all kinds of errors in their record … wrong marital status, wrong treatment dates, missing treatments, etc., but how are they going to correct that information and make sure it’s corrected in other places the data resides? There’s going to have to be some kind of mechanism to clean data, because the data is what everything—analytics, treatment decisions—is built on.”

 --Greg Gillespie

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