A born and bred Portlander, Quarum grew up in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, where his interest in science began at an early age. He remembers making a wreck of his mother’s kitchen with experiments as a precocious 4-year-old. “My first experiment had to do with finding out the difference between milk and glue,” he says, a glint in his eye.
Quarum attended Portland State University for a year before transferring to Reed. His interests in science and art (more on that later) flourished during his college years. He still recalls the thrill of discovering that the campus chemistry lab never closed. He was excited to do real research as an undergraduate, not cookbook experiments.
“School had been absolutely boring until that point,” he says. “Reed was the first place that I actually felt normal, in the sense that I was around people who thought like me and had the same sense of curiosity.”
He attended Oregon Health and Science University, where he earned a medical degree because he thought he might get more research funding as an M.D. than as a Ph.D. He followed that with a postdoctoral fellowship at OHSU’s Vollum Institute (founded by another entrepreneurial Reedie, Howard Vollum ’36, father of Tektronix).
Then, after more than a decade as a medical director and consultant for an array of institutions, from the Trojan Nuclear Plant to the Golden Eagle Insurance Company, Quarum finally decided to strike out on his own as a businessman.
Quarum developed what would become Qmedtrix on nights and weekends. In 1996, the company started with just six employees. After years of steady growth, the company expanded the scope of its business in 2002-03, doubling in size and, in the process, garnering awards from the Oregon Entrepreneurs Forum and Ernst & Young. Today, the company’s ranks have grown to 170 employees, with total revenues reaching $28 million in 2003.
Qmedtrix uses a proprietary database it developed to analyze medical data and costs so that a market price for any procedure ranging from an appendectomy to a craniotomy can be determined fairly and objectively. If there’s a problem, Qmedtrix can help to contest the bill or to negotiate a lower price. When a disputed case goes to a trial, which happens about a third of the time, Quarum himself often testifies as an expert.
And with insurance premiums going through the roof, employers are more than happy to buy into a system to control costs without sacrificing quality medical care. Nationally, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums rose more than 11 percent last year, the fourth consecutive year of double-digit increases, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report. Most of the work Qmedtrix does is with large, self-insured corporations; the company doesn’t disclose client names.
What keeps Qmedtrix in business, Quarum says, is the waste and abuse that runs rampant throughout the health care industry. The complexity and opacity of the system is just designed to confuse and frustrate anyone on the outside.