Every business dreams of homing in on the new thing — the hot emerging trend, the developing technology that will pace the market for years to come — before everyone else.
As healthcare IT becomes increasingly intertwined with the federal government, a handful of contracting firms are reaping the benefits of a long-standing presence in the field. GovConExec spoke to a few of these firms to chart their different paths to leader status and get their opinions on the market as it continues to emerge in the industry.
‘A Marathon, Not a Sprint’
SRA International has been carving out its place in the market for 25 years. That is a generous amount of time for a business to establish a reputation as a market leader — and it has — but that goal is not the aim of the firm.
“There is plenty of room for innovative, economical solutions,” Paul Nedzbala, SRA’s vice president and director of health research and informatics, said in regard to the firm’s leader status.
With the number of issues faced by customers, the more solutions being reached by forward-thinking companies, the better for everyone involved with the market.
That attitude has served SRA as well as its reputation as the firm continues to pick up work orders from various health-focused operations, including the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health.
“Problems like fraud, waste and abuse, getting VISTA 2.0 onto a modern platform, upgrading AHLTA, and helping hospitals get value from their IT investments are deeply complex problems,” Nedzbala said. “Solving them is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Creating solutions to problems while increasing quality and saving money is the gold standard across the entire government-contracting community; it is especially pressing in the healthcare IT field, where individuals’ health hangs directly in the balance.
“The impact of healthcare IT will touch every member of the public,” Nedzbala said. “SRA has been involved in critical health IT programs for many years, providing innovative IT solutions to capture clinical data, automate coding, provide analytic capabilities on quality of care, and automate and exchange health information. As healthcare reform continues to influence the market, SRA will bring innovation and a solution-oriented approach to solve the complex problems associated with healthcare reform.”
Pulling in the Brightest Minds
Vangent has been a player on the healthcare scene since 2002, when it snagged a 1-800-MEDICARE Beneficiary Contact Center contract. The firm’s health IT made a considerable move forward four years ago with the acquisition of business architecture specialist Blueprint Technologies, which held deals with major health players including the Food and Drug Administration, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Health and Human Services CIO Office.
“Since then, we have continued to grow organically with dozens of healthcare IT projects across HHS, VA and Military Health,” said Erik Buice, health solutions vice president at Vangent.
It was that approach to the market that impressed Buice, a federal healthcare IT thought leader and 15-year veteran of the business, to come to the firm.
“What attracted me most to Vangent,” he said, “was the corporate focus on healthcare as more than half our business is federal healthcare and our emphasis on thought leadership in open source health information exchange, health IT interoperability and the HHS enterprise architecture.”
The firm has spent of good deal of effort in building a quality team of thought leaders, a process made easier by the firm’s clear commitment to its health solutions division.
“We have a dedicated Health Strategy and Innovation Group and have established a Clinical Community of Practice that reaches across several of our lines of business,” he said. “These organizational commitments to health continue to fuel our momentum in developing innovative solutions with partners and clients and stay ahead of the competition.”
Building a Reputation, Piece by Piece
When the Internet grew to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many businesses were looking to take advantage of the emerging technology to boost customer experience and bettering supply chain efficiency. In the meantime, the healthcare and public sector markets were sliding backward in terms of technology adoption by comparison.
That’s where CNSI saw an opportunity. A contract to create web-enabled solutions and web applications for Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene gave the firm an up-close look at that gap.
“This insight led to our strategic decision to pursue the public sector healthcare market in our fifth year in business,” said Adnan Ahmed, CNSI’s chief strategy officer.
The firm won the chance to build its reputation working on deals for New Hampshire’s Vital Records Management System and Maine’s Enterprise Information System for Behavioral Health Case Management System. Then, came a chance to overhaul Maine’s Medicaid Management Information System.
“The rest is history, and this past decade has seen three State Medicaid agencies (including Michigan and Washington) go live with our solution eCAMS,” Ahmed said. “Today, as the industry’s preeminent supplier of Medicaid replacement systems, CNSI has a unique combination of healthcare competency and the technology expertise needed to develop and host very large-scale transaction processing systems.”
Each of those bricks have built a solid foundation for CNSI moving into the new decade. With an established business focus on the Medicaid side of the public-healthcare market has learned how to lead state agencies to a modernized platform.
“Our varied experience across other areas of health and human services — or in technology areas such as identity and access management — gives us the expertise to understand the workings of these government agencies,” he said. “With an equally well understanding of how to help integrate the functions that have been operating in silos thus far.”
‘An Extension of What We Do Best’
For Harris, healthcare IT seemed like a natural progression, with CEO Howard Lance’s vision for leading the communications titan to adjacent markets, and VP of healthcare solutions Jim Traficant’s passion for patient-centric healthcare and information technology, previously documented by GovConExec Magazine.
“We saw that there was an inherent connection between the intelligence assets Harris is known for, and the distinct needs of the healthcare industry,” Traficant said. “When you look at what Harris does in every market we serve, we are uniquely trusted at the intersection of life and data. We are experts in building infrastructure to collect, manage, secure and analyze data in high-pressure situations.”
He equated the healthcare market to any other in which health and safety are a direct issue. The comparison holds true in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers depend on Harris’ communications solutions. Likewise, for the work the firm does with the Federal Aviation Administration in working to keep the air travelers of America safe.
“For Harris, healthcare was a natural extension of what we do best,” Traficant said. “We are experts in gathering information and using it in a constrained time frame to deliver better care when lives are at stake. That’s exactly what healthcare IT needs. We can leverage solutions out of adjacent markets with speed and scale, as opposed to building healthcare solutions from scratch.”
The Necessity of Rapid Change
For 40 years, HP has been developing healthcare IT solutions,while the firm’s Enterprise business has been working alongside the Department of Defense for 25 years to accomplish a wide range of initiatives. In particular, reducing payment of ineligible healthcare claims and lending fast real-time data access for the defense eligibility enrollment and reporting system.
Those years of effort continue today as the firm helps guide DoD to a successful electronic health record system, while providing application development and modernization services to support the critical work it is doing with its electronic health record applications.
“We’re involved with the VA and focused on all of these agencies as they continue to focus on improvement of the systems and the services that they provide to their various constituencies,” said HP VP of Federal Healthcare Don Picard. “We provide engineering and management resource support to the VA for the national health programs that they are involved with that ensure quality of healthcare delivery to more than 1,400 VA health facilities.”
That work, along with support for the VHA’s Home Telehealth program and on the Veterans Health Information System and Technology Architecture, has led to successful results for both the firm and the government.
“We support ongoing development, maintenance and evolution of that very important electronic health record application,” Picard said. “We have a very broad footprint within the federal healthcare space.”
All of that success has also created a solid understanding of the current work the agencies are doing and more importantly helps to identify the objective.
“With healthcare reform and this administration’s very sharp focus on reform and the IT infrastructure that supports it,” Picard said, “we’re able to employ IT to support the rapid change that is necessary to achieve the objectives of the administration and obviously of each of the agencies that we do work with.”
Apparent and Imperative
Accenture’s experience in the market is as notable for its diversity as it is for its duration. The firm has worked on everything from payers and plans, hospitals, health and human services offices at the state and federal levels, and health information organizations that run exchanges and support the adoption of electronic health records.
“Healthcare costs continue to grow at alarming rates worldwide,” said Tom Romeo, healthcare executive at Accenture. “The role of electronic information in improving the quality of care and assisting in containing costs has become much more apparent and, indeed, an imperative.”
As the firm worked more in the field, more resources were dedicated and more attention paid to the market. That lengthy history of work in the healthcare and healthcare IT realm has lent the firm a unique perspective on the business.
“Skilled resources in healthcare IT are in high demand nationwide and worldwide,” Romeo said. “Our continued focus on the market and our reputation for delivering solutions that produce positive outcomes in healthcare allow us to attract highly skilled professionals who enhance our ability to assist our clients.”