Recently, FedHealthIT’s Executive Vice President, Susan Sharer, had the opportunity to connect with part of the team at Emagine IT: Michele Bond, President and COO; Andrea Wright, Vice President of Defense Programs; Kathleen Dyson, Vice President of Health Programs; and Elizabeth Ahrens, Vice President of Operations, to learn about the company and its advisory capabilities, the cyber challenges they see for Health IT, relationships and partnerships in the Federal Health space and what’s ahead for 2019.
The Emagine IT Difference
At its core, Emagine IT is an IT services and engineering firm that specializes in cybersecurity. Emagine’s services include executing cybersecurity programs and security frameworks/A&A (authorization and assessment), application development, IT service management in support of Federal Civilian, Health, and Defense programs. The difference is in Emagine IT’s approach to tackling the hard IT challenges facing Federal agencies – Emagine looks at these first from a technical perspective and then fills in the gaps and subject matter expertise through mission and expert engagement. Dubbed the “Google of the East” by Forbes magazine, Emagine IT brings fresh, innovative, leading edge technical approaches to Federal IT programs and projects that deliver results and products for our customers.
“Within the Federal Health IT landscape, there are many legacy systems and integrators that have been around a long time. With the need for modernization, companies like Emagine IT offer innovative ideas, strong technical capability, and the alignment with SMEs, bringing new thinking and approaches to solving these challenges,” says Michele Bond.
The company has been working extensively with the Defense Health Agency, US Department of Agriculture, and the United States Air Force; and applies what it has learned there and with other Federal agencies to its efforts in Federal Health IT.
Challenges for Health IT in Cyberspace
The team notes that agencies like CMS, HHS, and VA have challenges that don’t exist with many Federal Civilian counterparts because the systems they support interact with the public – and impact people’s health and access to Healthcare – directly.
“This heightens policy pressure and there is intense political energy that can constrain change and make modernization hard to achieve, while at the same time pushing to make it happen faster. Procurement within the Federal Health agencies also tends to follow a more traditional model. We must look for solutions that facilitate effective and efficient change and streamline procurement activities, so that the agencies can buy and deploy IT capabilities rapidly and securely.”
“Within the scope of Health IT and cyber, the amount of personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI) is voluminous and the legacy systems and code are difficult to maintain for many reasons, but often because people can’t understand the code; automated testing is not possible; legacy code is hard to debug; deploying is difficult and takes a long time; and there can be massive numbers of vulnerability findings that need to be resolved in large legacy code bases. Added to that is the need to protect health data, which in some instances is not just U.S.-based but is coming from global sources deployed worldwide. All of this comes together to create large cybersecurity challenges for Federal Health agencies.”
Emagine IT also understands the criticality of user-centered design in the development and deployment of systems that are user-friendly and safe and secure. “Designing secure systems that are intuitive and user-friendly requires extra sensitivity and attention when incorporating cybersecurity throughout the entire development process from initial concept through deployment – including end-user training and adoption. We understand that people take time to learn new systems and policies; training and user-adoption challenges are a big deal.”
Subject Matter Experts
One of Emagine IT’s distinct approaches is in the way they help customers collaborate. “We bring customers together from across our portfolio to collaborate on lessons learned and new approaches to solving hard problems like automating and streamlining cybersecurity compliance, continuous monitoring, DevSecOps, and others. We orchestrate collaborative sessions and facilitate Government-to-Government interactions, and then step back as closed-door discussions continue and Federal stakeholders share lessons learned and best practices – where they can find real truth and value. We’re seeing cross-agency collaboration more and more and it’s changing the face of engagement,” says Andrea Wright.
The company also offers cyber advisory services for commercial companies. Emagine IT’s customers are among the most reputable firms in the world and include commercial health vendors. This experience can be leveraged into the Federal space and add tremendous value and expertise as agencies and departments work to comply with cybersecurity requirements and achieve continuous diagnostics and monitoring.
Bond says: “We infuse our services and recommendations with insights from commercial best practices. We are an accredited FedRAMP 3PAO. To achieve this, we must be and remain current on Federal and commercial cybersecurity practices and demonstrate expert knowledge of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), and the RMF. We are one of only 40 accredited FedRAMP 3PAOs worldwide, and one of five that provides full advisory services. Accordingly, we work with commercial companies and advise on cybersecurity policies, procedures, plans, and practices, assisting them with obtaining FedRAMP authorization.”
Relationships and Partnerships
“The bottom line is that industry and Government are becoming more and more integrated as we move more and more to the Cloud – we are all in this together. We understand that relationships are forged in trust, and our advisory capability and practice are foundational to building that trust and confidence, dispelling fears over moving to the cloud, and demonstrating and sharing experiences and lessons learned from across our Federal and commercial customers.”
With increasing integrated industry-Government ecosystem, Emagine IT also looks to bolster its own capabilities and the advantages it brings to customers by seeking out partners with complimentary skills, where they fill a void or are strengthened by what a partner brings to the table. “Within Federal Health IT, we understand that we are part of a much larger ecosystem that blends experts who know health content with leading edge technology providers and cybersecurity,” says Kathleen Dyson.
As a part of the larger ecosystem, the team says that means understanding you are sometimes the Prime, and sometimes the subcontractor. “We haven’t been out of the small business space for long. That means we still truly have the flexibility and commitment of a small business which can be very beneficial for partners. More and more companies understand the idea of “co-opetition”, of needing to be a good partner – sometimes as a subcontractor and sometimes as the Prime,” says Bond.
Participating in industry events and forums, networking and information sharing, whether they are directly or indirectly bidding or not, the team is focused on supporting and working within the ecosystem to help everyone be successful and grow.
“We all want to move Federal Health forward and it’s important not to lose sight of that. There exists a collaborative community of support where people may move from company to company along their career path, but the community is a place people always come back to. There are a lot of companies we work with and compete against and as long as there is a common focus on treating people with respect and integrity, it all works,” says Dyson.
Looking Ahead to 2019
Emagine IT is focused on continuing its growth, both organically and through the acquisition of new business opportunities, including within Federal Health IT and the commercial space. This involves continuing to help find the right partners, to marry capabilities and expertise with others that have complimentary strengths and competencies to meet the customer’s mission. “We’re continuing to build off of the capabilities of our existing team, investing in developing our staff, and seeking out high quality people to strengthen our organization. It’s all about ensuring we have the right people with the right capabilities in the right seats to fulfill our customers’ missions,” says Elizabeth Ahrens.
Bond says: “We have great people, potential, and capabilities. We’re focused on alignment and making our mission goals clear to everyone to be able to deliver streamlined, repeatable services founded in quality and positive outcomes for our customers.”