October 26, 2015 – By Amy Strouse, Rachel Meyer, and Stephanie Stahl
Republished with permission from Avascent
As healthcare services and information technology providers come to the end of a busy Spring/Summer proposal submittal period, many companies are reconsidering their strategies and looking for growth outside of the traditional government health customers. Avascent suggests looking to DHS as a customer for health IT services – one that is currently underserved with a growing set of healthcare challenges.
It’s the summer of 2014 at the height of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is working with African countries to conduct exit screenings in all airports with international flights, while DHS is closely monitoring airports and the Mexican border, where illegal immigrants from the three Ebola-affected countries are frequently apprehended. Both agencies have assured the American population that they stand ready to respond in the unlikely event of an outbreak. Fast forward to September 30th, the date when Thomas Eric Duncan, recently arrived from Liberia, is diagnosed with Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Government officials demand an explanation for how Mr. Duncan was able to enter the country without being tested for symptoms, while audits conducted by the Inspector General detailing DHS’s mismanagement of pandemic-response supplies are cited as evidence of its fault. A year after Mr. Duncan’s ill-fated international trip and the only outbreak of Ebola in the US, we find ourselves asking the question: when did the Department of Homeland Security become a security agency with major health responsibilities?
Founded in November 2002 as a direct response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Homeland Security began as an entity melding together civilian domestic security agencies with a focus on preventing terrorism at home and abroad. Thirteen years later the department faces a spectrum of new missions that reflect evolving security concerns. A common thread? Healthcare. Some 80% of DHS’ stated challenges involve healthcare yet these missions are not being pursued as market opportunities alongside traditional business with Health and Human Services (HHS), the Veterans Administration (VA), and the Defense Health Agency (DHA).
As security threats evolve and place healthcare at the center of many DHS missions, how should contractors be thinking about the way they can support DHS? These opportunities may be during moments of extreme need, akin to Europe’s immigration crisis, or the steady policing of America’s borders with missions that can be as much law enforcement as humanitarian operations.