Jeff Drummond: Wired in to the Health Industry

May 12, 2014 | Spotlight

Things change fast in the healthcare industry. Nearly every week, a new rule is published, or a new precedent is set, or some other new thread is woven into the vast web of policies and procedures that regulate the industry.

Slogging through all that complexity can lead to what Jackson Walker partner Jeff Drummond calls the “MEGO” syndrome — as in “my eyes glaze over” when poring over thousands of pages of fine-print documentation. To avoid it, Jeff says, “you’ve got to be genuinely interested in understanding the complicated interactions of business, technology, and regulation.”

Jeff DrummondAnd Jeff is genuinely interested. “Health law is just inherently interesting,” he says. “Some of the highest drama in life involves medical issues, and there’s always something newsworthy happening in the medical field.”

His interest in the industry isn’t recent — he launched his career at a national firm with a focus in healthcare law. As a senior member of Jackson Walker’s healthcare practice, he continues to work in the industry, representing hospitals, physicians, and other entities in business transactions, contractual matters, and regulatory compliance.

Another way to avoid the “MEGO” syndrome is staying on top of new developments as they happen, rather than trying to play catch-up after the fact. For Jeff, that’s an integral part of his practice, and something that he makes a priority. “Easily, the hardest part is staying up to date on everything,” he says. “I review at least four e-mail newsletters every morning, and I’m on e-mail listserves and mailing lists for several other update services.”

Even so, the healthcare law field is so complex that it’s impossible to focus in-depth on every aspect. At Jackson Walker, healthcare attorneys handle this challenge by maintaining a broad knowledge of the field, then developing experience in specific areas. Dividing up the various specialties means that every niche has its in-house leader, which benefits the firm’s clients and its attorneys. As Jeff says: “I can call on others within the healthcare section at Jackson Walker for in-depth knowledge of the sub-specialties that I don’t constantly focus on, just as they rely on me for those areas where I’m the JW point guy.”

Jeff’s major area of focus is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which he describes as “a nightmare of a legal/regulatory scheme. It’s complex and convoluted, yet it impacts almost every aspect of the daily operations of anyone in the healthcare industry.”

How does he make sense of that kind of complexity? Just as he uses technological tools like e-mail and listserves to stay updated on health law, he’s become such a go-to attorney for navigating the intricacies of HIPAA law that he’s created his own technological tool to inform others. That’s the HIPAABlog, which Jeff updates several times a week — sometimes multiple times a day — as new developments break and noteworthy HIPAA-related news hits media outlets. The blog makes communication efficient for both Jeff and his clients. He describes the blog’s genesis this way:

“You’ve got to be genuinely interested in understanding the complicated interactions of business, technology, and regulation.”

— Jeff Drummond

“Whenever a new set of HIPAA regulations came out or a new deadline approached, I found that I had to keep repeating the same long-winded explanations to various clients about what the regulations say, what they mean, why they are structured the way they are, what they are intended to do, and how to comply with them. It dawned on me that there was a better way to do this.”

Six and a half years later, the HIPAABlog is going strong — it includes thousands of posts and receives hundreds of visits each week, and it has created a manageable way for the firm’s clients and others to stay updated on new developments in this area of healthcare law.

Keeping up with the latest in law and keeping clients informed — those are time-honored tactics for any good lawyer. Jeff Drummond happens to be doing it in innovative ways — using new technologies to reach old-fashioned goals.