This interview with Milad Bahrami, Senior Vice President & General Manager – Government Health & Safety Solutions at Leidos looks at four key takeaways from COVID and the lessons we must take forward to continue to drive Federal Healthcare.
Out of the Box Collaboration
One of the greatest achievements of this pandemic is reflected in the development of the vaccine which could not, out of urgency, follow the same 10 to 15-year path as what had been done in the past.
There was an incredible amount of collaboration across industry and Government that allowed this to happen. The main example of this is the public-private partnership that was established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with a dozen leading pharmaceutical companies around COVID-19 vaccine development and treatment.
Concurrently, Government agencies also had to work together more than ever before. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Medicines Agency came together to develop an international strategy for coordinated research and response. Under Operation Warp Speed, NIH and CDC partnered in new ways to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines in complement to the private sector.
All of this was driven by the perspective that we had no choice but to come up with a solution and that the solution required a combination of collaboration and creativity.
From the industry view, that meant being able to engage in dialogue with our Government stakeholders around value, around thinking more broadly about how to help them move their initiatives forward, and about how to help their fellow agencies.
Working with Urgency
In the public sector there tends to be a lot of red tape, and we have a lot of bureaucracy and processes that we have to work through. Because of this, we tend to accept longer turnaround times. Facing the pandemic, that really wasn’t acceptable, and it forced Government to look at the end goal and then to apply a sense of urgency to achieve outcomes.
Industry needed to go into every scenario analyzing multiple possible scenarios to be able to articulate to Government what we could do creatively to move things ahead faster, instead of getting bogged down with the slower, legacy structures.
For example, some agency workforces switched to fully remote posture nearly overnight due to the pandemic. Understandably, this stretched and challenged existing IT infrastructure. An immediate solution to ensure critical work could continue was the only option.
That sense of urgency also meant looking at the volumes of new challenges created by the pandemic, quickly understanding what was happening and what could potentially happen, along with the impact, and getting ahead of that more quickly than we ever would have before.
Throughout the pandemic, leaders had to learn to manage teams in a very different way. As managers and as leaders, we became more empathetic to each other, and to our employees. We had to think of each other not just in terms of the office persona but that person at home, and their family. That’s an important view to take forward because it made our employees more committed, and brought teams together in new ways.
That same empathy extends between companies, organizations and agencies. Knowing the challenges of what FDA has to do to be able to get these EUAs through or what CDC is dealing with in terms of being able to disseminate vaccines, PPE, ventilators and so on logistically to roll things out made us see and appreciate the bigger picture in a different way.
The ability to share data to enable decision-making has been an ongoing challenge, and a primary goal in Healthcare. The CDC was at a focal point of this throughout the pandemic. They had systems, one that particularly we were involved with – the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) – a surveillance system that brought in Healthcare data and COVID data from facilities and states across the country. The system was able to bring that data together, allowing the CDC to do what it needed to, but then also shared that data with other stakeholders across Government. Ultimately, every piece of data has a different value for different operating divisions within HHS.
NHSN was a really good example of where that information was being used by many different entities to make smarter, better decisions. V-safe was another great example. CDC did a great job of capturing data and rolling that tool out, to be able to capture COVID-19 reactions and data around that.
Looking ahead, the vaccine passports are another good example of where more data sharing and collaboration is going to have to happen as we shift gears to demonstrate proof of individuals being vaccinated and having that proof be authentic.
It is human nature to assume that as we move on from the pandemic, we may lose sight of a lot of lessons learned, of ways that were effective but driven by a sense of urgency. The more we can talk about those lessons, and the more we can try to understand what we did well, and the more we will realize there is a lot that we can and should take forward. The same mindset and the same concepts can continue to apply to everything we do going forward.
About Milad Bahrami
Milad Bahrami is a seasoned Federal IT industry expert with over 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors of the Federal Government. He currently serves as the Senior Vice President of the Government Health & Safety Solutions operation within the Leidos Health Group where he is responsible for leading a team of 2000 health IT professionals providing solutions and services to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Social Security Administration, and a life sciences portfolio that spans across multiple Federal health agencies. His focus areas include Healthcare IT, advanced data analytics, life sciences, call and data center operations, and IT modernization.