Q&A: CEO explains CCHIT’s new plans
February 4, 2014 in Medical Technology
CCHIT surprised many in the industry this past week when it announced it would be bowing out of the EHR certification game to focus on advisory services and thought leadership. Alisa Ray, executive director and CEO of the standards and testing pioneer, spoke with Healthcare IT News about the rationale behind that decision.
Q: Why is CCHIT going in this new direction?
A: It’s a combination of things. Our board has looked at the ONC certification and testing business — and in particular the new requirements for 2014. It’s been very variable, from a business perspective. So in terms of just managing operations and trying to keep a full staff synced through the peaks and valleys, it’s been very hard to do.
This is our sole line of business right now, ONC testing and certification. So we’re very susceptible — if there are updates in the program that slow things down for a little while, if the vendors don’t come right away, then there’s a lag in our revenue because we get paid by them needing testing.
And we’re actually quite busy right now. We’re really pleased, and we think that’s a good sign for ONC and the program that the vendors are finally stepping up. But we get out our crystal ball and say, “Hmm, when will the Stage 3 business come on line?” And no one really knows.
So if you’re a good board, and you’re trying to do a three- to five-year plan around something with so much uncertainty, they just said, “Look, let’s just take the resources we do have and pivot into something that’s really more aligned with our roots and our original mission as a non-profit.”
So that’s really it. It’s bold move, to exit a business and a revenue stream, but strategically it feels right to align better with what we were created to do.
Q: What sort of thinking went into this? Was it a tough decision?
A: Yes, it was a tough decision because CCHIT, when we started doing our work in 2005 and 2006, we really pioneered EHR certification. We showed that it could be done, it could be done efficiently and reliably. It’s something we’re very proud of. So yeah, it was something the board spent a lot of time thinking about. It wasn’t just a cold dollars and cents reaction, like, “We had a bad quarter.” It wasn’t like that at all.
Q: What was ONC’s reaction?
A: We went and met with them. It was important to let them know. Because we’re probably — I don’t say this boastfully — but we’re probably the leader or one of the largest certifiers, so they needed to be aware. They understand. I think they take it in stride. The way they have crafted the testing and certification program now, they wanted multiple organizations, and I think they contemplated that there might be some sort of in and out.
What they were most concerned with was that we had an adequate transition plan in place that wouldn’t be disruptive to the vendors or the certifications that were out there, and then the end users or providers who were relying on those certifications to attest for meaningful use. They were most concerned with with whether we had a plan in place, had we talked with ANSI about it, and that it was following the (ISO/IEC) Guide 65 rules and all of that for maintaining certifications.
And we’d spent a lot of time thinking about that, so we were able to address their questions, and they’re OK with it.