Michal Bednarek ©123RF.com

By Milad Bahrami, Vice President of HHS Operations at General Dynamics Information Technology

These past few months have changed the world. For those of us who work in Government contracting, historically the need for our services and products have continued even through disruptive events such as hurricanes, budget cuts or political shifts, because the Government continued to operate. The cadence of holding client meetings, networking and attending conferences—all staples in our day-to-day work lives—remained steady throughout these downturns.

What we never imagined was COVID-19, and how this global pandemic would seismically shift how we have to work. Even as businesses now begin to reopen and employees start to go back to the office, teleworking and social distancing will remain. Now more than ever we need to be more strategic, efficient and focused on serving our critical Government customers.

The last few months have been an experiment in how to keep delivering. For those of us in Healthcare, our work becomes even more critical. I have been fortunate to lead teams across HHS from CDC to FDA to IHS that have been working to support COVID-19 response efforts. I’d like to share three critical learnings from this historic year:

How we Work has Shifted Dramatically; What We do Remains the Same

The most important qualities that we can demonstrate are flexibility and focus—to help ensure that our customers are able to deliver on the incredible missions that each of them have.

From a day-to-day perspective, we have had to learn how to interact with clients, teammates, employees and colleagues in a virtual manner. The conversation that you used to be able to have for five minutes before a meeting can’t happen any longer, which has translated to more meetings and emails.

Yet in the midst of all of this change, our focus to the mission of Federal health remains the same. The FedHealth community has continued to prioritize our customers’ needs by supporting them as they adapt to new demands from emergency use authorizations at the FDA, to a surge in emergency response support at the CDC.

Collaboration is More Critical than Ever

We all know the importance of collaboration in the workplace, but it is even more critical in this virtual environment. There is definitely no shortage of tools to utilize—from Skype to Zoom, Teams and many others—but it’s our approach to these tools that will define how productive we are.

Many of the key elements of leading a successful meeting have become even more critical.

  1. Establish objectives for meetings and have the right attendees. Ensure that everyone is clear on what is to be accomplished.
  2. Be mindful of meeting length. We all have a limit on how much screen time we are able to endure and still be productive. Whole day and half day meetings are hard to begin with but made even more difficult behind a computer screen no direct human interaction. Therefore, you should think strategically about key meetings and how best to conduct them to be respectful of these challenges.

While keeping these different recommendations in mind, we can’t let communication and collaboration cease. It is fundamental to what we do, and it’s been heartening to see organizations, customers and the FedHealth community embrace flexibility. As evidence, we are seeing more and more virtual events, from webinars to the FedHealth IT Innovation Awards.

Technology must Enable the Sharing of Data

At GDIT, we work closely with our customers to help them with COVID-19 related challenges. One prevailing topic that is always paramount is the accessibility to data. As we start to expand contact tracing, we see how important it is to be able to share State and Federal health data. Similarly, the ability to share data between health agencies and also transfer data within an agency is critical.

There is an abundance of technology that can help with accessing and providing meaningful insights with data, but change management and the human aspects remain a challenge. This could be the time where many of those barriers come down, and we are able to access and leverage the data for better health outcomes.

These are definitely challenging times but also an opportunity to come together as organizations and the broader Federal health community to help move many key initiatives forward and bring our country out of this historic public health crisis.

About Milad Bahrami

Milad Bahrami is a seasoned Federal IT industry expert with over 20 years of experience in both the public and private sectors of the Federal Government. Milad is currently the Vice President of HHS Operations at General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT). He works with executive leaders at HHS to ensure GDIT is helping to improve IT effectiveness and delivery of enterprise-level results at HHS.

He is a former Division Director with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Business Applications Services organization within the Center for Information Technology, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) CDER IPT Manager, and a former Enterprise Reporting Manager with the U.S. Department of Justice. He has earned an NIH Director’s Award and was named as one of the FedHealthIT100.

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