Recently, Atlas Research’s President and CEO, Robin Portman, spoke with FedHealthIT about the company’s move from a small to a large business, their approach to partnering, transitioning and growing, breaking down innovation, and the importance of thinking outside your vertical.

Agility is Key

Our clients face a myriad of challenges, from opioid addiction to mental health issues, to delivering sustainable Healthcare and proving outcome measures. Innovation is key, as is the ability to stay on top of and explore options. Our goal is to work with clients in an agile fashion so they can find ways to move forward quickly, test possible innovations without an all-in investment, identify solutions and then adapt and apply evidenced-based successes at a lower cost.

We work with clients, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to identify best practices, to shine a light on best outcomes for patients in the areas of safety, quality and access. By being involved in efforts such as VA’s Diffusion of Excellence Initiative, which “helps to identify and disseminate clinical and administrative best practices through a learning environment that empowers its top performers to apply their innovative ideas throughout the system — further establishing VA as a leader in Healthcare while promoting positive outcomes for Veterans” or the Agency’s Innovator’s Initiative, we are able to support VA in taking ideas, making them real, and seeing them implemented.

Test Quickly to Fail Quickly

There is a quote used in lean startup and business literature that can often vary slightly in its delivery but that essentially says you must test quickly to fail quickly. This means testing with as little investment as possible to weed out what might not be feasible at a given time for one reason or another, to determine what shows the most promise. From there, you move that forward to determine evidenced-based outcomes and implementation. That can mean casting a wide net looking for potential innovations and potential partners.


Moving from a Small Business to Large

Our work with VA started, not because we were a small business, but because of the expertise in innovation and specialty care in underserved populations we were able to bring to the table.  Using our tools and expertise, we were able to deliver the capabilities they required, but we also had the exposure they needed to meet that demand.

Now that we have graduated to a mid-tier role, we will continue to look to innovative companies who offer new ideas, and will also look to help our clients satisfy their small business needs.

Through our partnering with all types of small businesses, we ensure we stay connected to those innovative companies that help us bring more to the client, both through their ideas and passion, and through their business status. In the end, the goal is delivering a win-win-win for our clients who meet their small business goals, get the innovations they need, backed by our experience in delivery.

Think Outside Your Vertical

Sometimes the most disruptive technologies, ways of processing a problem, or ways of thinking about the populations we serve can come from another vertical, from companies who look at problems from a different perspective and can provide the fresh lens that is needed.

Any time a respected colleague or thought leader approaches me with a suggestion that I speak with a friend of a colleague, or some other seemingly random connection, I find time to make those conversations, and to get with those off-the-wall companies or technologies that are outside our normal circle. These “random” connections can be really effective when you’re looking at a new problem whose challenge is a blank sheet of paper. I have found it effective to have a variety of sources and inputs and perspectives to draw from.

Breaking it Down: Applying New Innovation Effectively

There is no doubt that technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare will be big but we don’t know at this point how it will look. For example, AI on its own is a huge space, so we need to approach its application by starting with the challenge. We need to think in terms of the specific opportunities that AI can offer and then look at its application to solve the problem. It sounds simple, but if we can get to the outcomes we’re trying to achieve, and how AI or Machine Learning (or any technology) can help, we can break the solution into phases or sprints and demonstrate results more quickly. This also forces you to understand what you have and to examine whether you have to keep doing it or have the ability to do it in a different way.  This is what agile implementations are trying to achieve.

We are seeing that with the GSA Centers of Excellence Awards under which each Center will begin with an assessment and planning phase, resulting in the development of a roadmap that will allow for the successful implementation of managing centralized, function-specific talent, solutions, and acquisition vehicles related to a very specific task.

Transitioning and Growing

We recognize that for Atlas to continue to transform and grow, we need to bring in talent to help us integrate new thinking and innovations. We recently welcomed Young Bang to our team as our new Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Strategist to help implement our strategic growth framework. Our intent is to expand into other markets and new opportunities and the addition of another seasoned veteran will help us move in that direction. The Healthcare market has many challenges and problems to tackle, and our Government clients are hungry for new ideas to help jumpstart their efforts.

As we move into these new opportunities, we’ll approach our partnering by looking for relationships outside of our immediate neighborhood with a focus on testing to quickly understand what will work and what won’t, and helping clients think through the options and implement them effectively.

About Atlas Research

Founded in 2008, Atlas Research fuses deep domain knowledge with improvement processes to solve problems and create efficient, sustainable change. Delivering evidence-based, future-ready solutions at all levels, from focused projects to enterprise-wide program transformation, the company has graduated from a small to large business through a defined process for helping clients succeed in an agile model and a radical approach to partnering focused on positive disruption, innovation and giving back.


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