This year, as in past years, Healthcare Informatics has designated three vendor companies in healthcare IT as “Most Interesting Vendors,” and is featuring profiles of those three companies in its Healthcare Informatics 100 issue, which this year is our May/June issue. The “Most Interesting Vendor” designation is not an award, but simply a recognition. The trajectories of all three companies speak to some of the broader trends taking place in healthcare IT in general and in the healthcare IT vendor market, and are thus of interest to readers. In this first of three articles, we profile the Reston, Va.-based Leidos consulting firm.
When the news broke on July 29, 2015 regarding which team of vendors had been awarded a huge electronic health record (EHR) implementation contract by the Department of Defense (DoD), it ended months of anticipation, speculation, and rumors in U.S. healthcare IT. Pitted against one another in the competition for the contract, worth several billion dollars, were teams that included Epic Systems Corporation, IBM, and Impact Advisors; Allscripts, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), and Hewlett-Packard (HP); and Cerner Corporation, Leidos Health, and Accenture Federal. A great deal of speculation had placed bets on the Epic/IBM/Impact Advisors team of vendors, but as it turned out, Cerner, Leidos, and Accenture Federal were given the contract, worth at least $4.3 billion. The new contract will cover more than 9.5 million Defense Department beneficiaries and the more than 205,000 care providers that support them. The DoD and the Veterans Administration (VA) are interoperable now, said Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, but this contract ensures it will continue by including future software upgrades. The work the agencies had contracted will “save money, save time, and most importantly, save lives,” Christopher A. Miller, the Defense Healthcare Management Systems program executive officer said in a statement in the press released on July 29.
“Today is not just about picking a software vendor,” Miller said on that day. “Today is really about making sure we provide the right team that will provide the services and all those things that are necessary to meet our objectives.”
And in an August 4 quarterly earnings call, Cerner president Zane Burke said of the awarding of the contract, “As you know, the Leidos Partnership for Defense Health includes Cerner as the core EHR supplier. We are honored, humbled, and excited to be a part of the team that won what we believe was the most objective and comprehensive evaluation of technology platforms and solutions ever conducted. We now have the opportunity for Cerner’s suite of integrated solutions to replace the DoD’s legacy health IT system in its 55 hospitals and more than 350 clinics worldwide, as well as in ships, submarines and other locations in the theater of military operations.”
In all this, far less was heard from senior executives of Leidos Health (21st on the Healthcare Informatics 100 list according to its 2015 revenues), the Reston, Va.-based consulting firm, one with a Health and Infrastructure Group encompassing around 7,000 staff, of whom at least half are healthcare consultants, biostatisticians, or data analytics or IT experts, according to Jonathan (Jon) Scholl, president of that division. What’s more, Scholl notes, both divisions have very large footprints in federal and commercial health, as Scholl and his colleagues define the specific healthcare sectors they consult in.
Indeed, Leidos Health’s reach in those two sectors is far wider than most people realize, Scholl says. “For over a decade, we’ve been managing the National Cancer Institute’s program of maintenance and operations,” just to cite one example of many areas of involvement. On a higher conceptual level, Leidos has also been helping to facilitate data analytics-driven research at the NCI. “And,” he says, “in our Veterans Affairs work” for the Department of Veterans Affairs, “we do more hardcore information technology work, including data center planning, enterprise architecture planning, and contracts for service planning inside the VA, and other agencies inside the federal government as well, ranging from hardcore IT to service provision. We also run a behavioral health service for the military, and within the scope of that work, we run a nurse advice line for the military.” Further, he says, “If you need someone who understands pharmacogenomics, we’ve got them. And we have the right kind of expertise. We are involved in the manufacture and drug trials of the first antiviral for Zika, for example,” he notes.
And with regard to IT operations, Scholl notes, “We provide electronic health record implementation, go-live support, change management, revenue cycle optimization, and EHR optimization services. We are multi-vendor, so we do it for all the major vendors—Epic, Cerner, McKesson, Meditech, and we’ve got a great team. So we’ve touched hundreds of health systems over the years.” In fact, he says, “I feel pretty comfortable telling you that we are one of the largest in the commercial healthcare EHR implementation space.”
Given that, Scholl says that Leidos Health may be one of the least understood vendors in the IT space touching on healthcare services, in the entire industry. But, he says, in the coming months, particularly given the high profile that the new DoD contract will ensure, he and his colleagues plan to heighten the company’s profile somewhat; not that they mind the previous lack of visibility, but that the attention that Leidos Health has gained from co-winning the contract last summer has been a good thing.
Speaking of which, how did they prevail in that contract bid, anyway?? “We had a wonderfully constructed team that brought great capability to the customer; that’s always important,” Scholl says. “I think we won because of our understanding and care and concern around what the customer’s requirements were. The government ran a really, really good process. They made the right people accessible so that we could understand the process. I think Leidos itself brought a deep understanding of the military healthcare system, based on decades of experience with it. The Cerner EHR, of course, is very capable, and that was part of the equation; and our team broadly. I think we understood the requirements, turned in a really competitive bid, brought an experienced team to bear, and I think it came out in the RFP as well as the oral arguments,” he adds.
So how does all this position Leidos Health for the future? “We’ve benefited a lot from the DoD win. The commercial market didn’t know our name nearly as well as they know it now. In terms of how we’re positioned, from a capability, from a people, from an ability to deliver, standpoint, nothing’s changed. But from a recognition standpoint, we’ll certainly benefit from that. And so it’s like anything else: where your good name gets even better because of a contract.”
And how do the Leidos leaders see the markets they’re evolving forward? “I think we’ll expand significantly for reasons that include the contract. We do behavioral services for the military. And you know how important behavioral health is in the commercial space. So the recognition will help, but it’s really our core capability that will enable it. We have a very deliberate viewpoint of what the next generation of healthcare is going to look like, as a group, and we’re going to grow because we have a strategy. And we’re investing in leadership to grow it. We solve important national problems in several markets, including the healthcare market, and at our core, we are not a platform company, but rather a science and technology company. And in health, we want to solve the hardest problems in health as they relate to analytics, to human factors, and we’re aiming to do that.”