When it comes to continuity at any one company, Max Hall’s got it. For the past 17 years, Hall has served SRA in a variety of functions. From his early days as a network engineer, Hall has gone on to serve the Fairfax, Va.-based provider of expert knowledge, technical tools and solutions, in areas such as engineering, business management, and business capture. Hall’s work has also led him to delve deep into domains such as national security and defense. Now Hall is taking on his next big challenge: health care. For nearly a year, Hall has been running SRA’s health and civil services sector — a sector that comprises half the company. Recently, Hall offered ExecutiveBiz an update on his work at the helm, and where he sees healthcare IT headed over the next few years.
- “When you think of health IT, you often think of bringing electronic health records and IT to the doctor and hospital levels. Our approach is to broaden that perspective,” says Hall, who runs SRA’s health and civil services sector.
- Customers include the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Veterans Administration.
- Looking toward the future, “If we look at electronic health records, our goal will be to make technology of that nature interoperable at all levels and provide a better capability for all users,” says Hall.
“Our growth strategy is focused on areas of the health market that have high public and political visibility.” — Max Hall, SRA
ExecutiveBiz: As head of SRA’s health and civil services sector, who are some of your customers?
Max Hall: In this sector, we run all of the programs across our health, federal civil, state, and local agencies, (with the exception of homeland security). We have a really diverse portfolio by customer set, from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Veterans Administration, to the Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. Then, work-wise we are very involved not only in infrastructure technology and development-type products, but also mission support to a number of agencies. We have folks at NIH involved in cancer research, as an example.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s SRA’s approach to the healthcare IT market?
Max Hall: When you think of health IT, you often think of bringing electronic health records and IT to the doctor and hospital levels. Our approach is to broaden that perspective; we look to see how healthcare IT might apply across the entire federal health continuum and how technology, in turn, supports it. We’re involved not only in all the health and human services agencies like CDC, NIH, and FDA, to name a few, but also the VA and military health side.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see opportunities for healthcare IT up ahead?
Max Hall: Some of the money certainly flows down to the state and local level. We’re looking at playing in a number of individual states where opportunities are presenting themselves. In addition, we’re also seeing that healthcare is an obvious priority for the current administration, and we are looking at how we leverage the capabilities we have to support all of those federal agencies in supporting their missions.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s your biggest challenge in growing your business?
Max Hall: One of the things a lot of other companies do is what I call “stove-piped” opportunities within specific agencies. For SRA, it’s about leveraging the capabilities we have across all those groups or sectors. For example, the lessons we have learned from places like the CDC where we are involved in the H1N1 virus response — how do we also use those lessons in support of NIH, or how do we leverage our IT capabilities in other parts of the business to bring those capabilities to support health IT? This is the type of expertise we are trying to leverage across SRA. If we look at some of the activities we are involved in with data and text mining, which we’ve used in other areas such as cyber security and intelligence – they have real applicability within the health industry. So, our biggest challenge — really, opportunity — is bringing those ideas and technologies to market to support our customers.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell us more about your text mining and data mining capabilities.
Max Hall: We have tools that can track group-types of activities. That capability originated in our support of the intelligence community, and it’s now being applied to different parts of the health industry, specifically instances where you’re looking more at preventive approaches than reactive activities. We help our clients extract value from their unstructured data by converting text into knowledge. We also help by recommending the most effective techniques and tools for turning unstructured data into actionable information that is readily available to the people who need it. For example, for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Enteropathogen Resource Integration Center (ERIC) project, SRA used the NetOwl text mining tools to accelerate scientific research on food pathogens by extracting not only gene names, but also what the function of those genes are from more than seven million scientific literature abstracts – far more than any scientist could ever read. This provides researchers with a centralized resource that dramatically reduces time and effort to conduct literature based research.
ExecutiveBiz: What will your business unit look like in two years?
Max Hall: In two years? We’ll continue to look for ways to grow more on the mission support side for all our customers. Take IT, for example. IT is an enabler – it allows folks to complete their mission in a better fashion for not just infrastructure support activities, but can bring people together to do things differently. If there is a tool that we can bring that allows people to do that, then I think that is a great thing. If we look at electronic health records, our goal will be to make technology of that nature interoperable at all levels and provide a better capability for all users.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s your prognosis for bringing this vision to fruition?
Max Hall: Broadly speaking, our growth strategy is focused on areas of the health market that have high public and political visibility and that provide great value and enhanced care for our citizens. We are focused on the data sharing and joint initiatives being undertaken by DoD and VA to improve the care being provided to our military personnel, veterans and their families. At the same time, we are focused on areas of the public health market that support the regulatory and public safety mission of FDA, particularly food safety programs; provide support for the CDC in preparedness and response to emerging public health threats such the H1N1 virus; work on technology modernization programs for critical infrastructure programs; and implement emerging scientific technologies within the national research program, including new approaches to research such as systems biology.