Don Mestas serves as vice president of government healthcare solutions at Harris Corp., where he manages the company’s business with the departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Health and Human Services and other government customers.
The more than 25-year Harris veteran joined the firm after graduating from the University of Florida and has served in leadership roles in the defense and civilian sectors.
In his discussion with ExecutiveBiz, Mestas spoke about how Harris stays ahead of the federal procurement process, how he leverages his experience at Harris to become a better leader and how Harris supports the government with its healthcare offerings.
ExecutiveBiz: Please describe some of the services Harris performs so that the government can better fulfill its mission?
Don Mestas: Harris Healthcare is helping over 200,000 users in 1,000 care delivery sites serving 13 million patients across the world. We help those users increase the quality of care and decrease cost by integrating disparate data to produce meaningful information and then delivering it securely to the point of decision.
For the Department of Veterans Affairs, we are providing enhanced capability for their disability ratings and disability awards processes to help reduce the claims backlog. We’re also helping the VA transition from international classification of disease version 9 to version 10 as has been mandated by Department of Health and Human Services.
We operate and maintain the VA’s enterprise medical image management system that supports enhanced clinical collaboration. Harris is deploying a surgery workflow solution to improve quality, efficiency and patient safety and we’re creating a centralized network performance monitoring system to give the VA a unified view of its critical infrastructure. We’re also providing the VA a consolidated patient account center solution that is increasing VA collection rates and reducing collection cycle times.
For the DoD, we have developed an eye injury and vision registry that aids the Vision Center of Excellence in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of eye injuries for service members and veterans. We’re supporting interoperability efforts between the DOD and the VA health systems, specifically providing a suite of service-oriented architecture capabilities that provide a standard platform to enable the sharing of data between the multiple systems and applications that exist in the country’s two largest medical systems.
We’re deploying an electronic health record for the Department of Homeland Security in support of their enforcement and removal operations and we provide clinical trial data management for the National Cancer Institute. Finally, we’re establishing health information exchanges in Florida and Oregon.
ExecutiveBiz: I was wondering if you could comment on how Harris is trying to help the backlog at the VA?
Don Mestas: The VA is deploying an overarching Veterans Benefits Management System to manage the multiple stages in that the benefits workflow. We are helping to automate the disability rating and awards calculation processes that determine the benefits a veteran is entitled to receive based on factors associated with the veteran’s military history. Automating these previously paper-based processes will reduce their cycle times and get benefits to veterans faster.
ExecutiveBiz: You mentioned a lot of different services that Harris provides the federal government, especially the VA and DOD, including interoperability, imaging, EHR, work flow automation, etc. How do all of those services fit into the federal government’s future procurement plans and how does Harris keep on the cutting edge of this procurement plan.
Mestas: We have good insight into the government’s needs and their acquisition approach to enhance existing capabilities or create new ones. Our focus has been supporting the government in bringing together data from multiple systems, securely delivering it to authorized users on authorized devices in a manner that supports their work flow.
The integration of disparate data to provide meaningful information has been a hallmark of Harris in the many markets we serve. We’re bringing our integration, interoperability and collaboration capabilities to the healthcare market.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you talk about some of the mobility services that your company offers in the health sector?
Mestas: We have invested R&D to develop a next generation tactical medical data transfer system that allows the medic on the battlefield to capture and transfer medical data hands-free and in near real time.
It provides for the capture of patient vitals, injury type and location, and any treatment that may have been administered and securely communicates them to a triage station before the patient arrives. We believe this capability can save the lives of war fighters. The system includes a ruggedized tablet computer designed to military grade environmental specifications that is sunlight readable and built on an open source operating system.
It has a voice-driven interface with noise cancellation that allows hands-free navigation and data entry giving the medic full use of both hands to care for the patient. The system is integrated with our theater radio and networking systems. And since Harris provides nearly all of the in-theater ad-hoc data networking capability for our armed forces, this medical triage system is a natural extension.
ExecutiveBiz: After serving for more than 25 years at Harris, how do you leverage your experience to become a better leader?
Mestas: In my time at Harris, I’ve had the opportunity to perform in multiple roles, work in multiple markets and work in different geographies. Moving around the company has given me great insight into the breadth of the capabilities that Harris possesses and more importantly, how they can be leveraged across the different markets we serve.
ExecutiveBiz: I’ve noticed recently in the health care market a lot of merger and acquisition activity as the healthcare market explodes because of the Affordable Care Act. What M&A activities or international market expansion is Harris looking at?
Mestas: Harris has made two recent healthcare acquisitions – Patriot Technologies in 2009 and Carefx in 2011. Harris Healthcare has a presence today in the U.K. and Canada with a customer base using products that evolved from those we acquired with Carefx.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you think technology is going to be a key in reducing the cost of health care going forward?
Mestas: When implemented correctly, technology can help reduce cost, improve care, and enable more empowered patients. Cost savings could range from a pretty basic example of not performing a duplicate test to more complex big data population health analytics used to predict and treat diseases before they become chronic.
ExecutiveBiz: Going forward what are you most excited about in federal healthcare, specifically, Harris’ role in federal healthcare.
Mestas: We’re working on challenging problems that when solved will make a real positive impact to our citizens, our economy and therefore our country overall. Participating in the convergence of a broad spectrum of ideas competing for how to address those problems is exciting.