Call it serendipity. It was Fall 2008, and Melissa Chapman was attending a healthcare IT conference. Featured was a new technology that allowed a diverse set of healthcare organizations — including the VA, Social Security Administration, MedVirginia and the Indian Health Service — to securely share vital health information on-demand. Chapman was thrilled. The Federal Health Architecture program she had initiated had come a long way since she left HHS as CIO in 2003. She quickly asked: “How can I get involved with this again?” It wasn’t long before Chapman joined Agilex, a key developer of the technology, as vice president of health solutions.
On the heels of her new role, Chapman recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about her plans to help this rapidly growing company, which has generated $20 million in healthcare IT alone over the last two years, continue its ascent as a significant player in the arena.
ExecutiveBiz: This isn’t your first go-round working for private industry. How does Agilex compare?
Melissa Chapman: After 15 years with HHS, I had the great fortune to work at three wonderful firms in the area of health information technology. However, I was significantly intrigued by Agilex, particularly its role in architecting the National Health Information Network CONNECT platform — a powerhouse that’s facilitated the exchange of health data between federal agencies. Agilex has been instrumental in developing the technology, which grew out of HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator and the Federal Health Architecture program. As just one example, the Social Security Administration has been able to reduce claims processing from 84 to 25 days using the technology. The opportunity to partner with HHS agencies, and work on program level solutions to bring about metrics like these was too great to pass up.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see technology implementation headed for HHS in 2010?
Melissa Chapman: What you’re seeing throughout HHS is a great balance of pursuing mission requirements pragmatically. For example, CONNECT was developed using service-oriented architecture and other standards. As a result, new features can be layered on quickly as we’ve been able to create three upgrade releases this year. Another great example is how the caBIG community is being continually enhanced. This more incremental and empirical approach is the wave of the future.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s your biggest challenge in growing your business unit?
Melissa Chapman: For us, it’s making sure we do a good job articulating how NHIN CONNECT, informatics, business intelligence, and other core technologies can help solve HHS’ challenges, such as the exchange of health data among agencies or the CDC’s disease tracking programs. These are examples of where we have the ability to demonstrate how our technology can reduce costs and improve performance within those clinical programs.
ExecutiveBiz: As the government digitizes electronic health records and other health data nationwide, do you see a role for NHIN CONNECT within the FDA Sentinel program?
Melissa Chapman: I do. I think the HHS NHIN CONNECT solution will facilitate FDA’s goal of reaching out to any number of independent health data resources and collecting that information so that analyses can performed in conjunction with the FDA’s abilities today. FDA continues to lead the way in product safety oversight, but they need access to additional analyses. This is a way to facilitate immediate access over NHIN CONNECT to different experiences, experts, and the information itself.
ExecutiveBiz: What opportunities do you envision from healthcare stimulus spending?
Melissa Chapman: As stimulus spending moves into the states, we’re helping them leverage what’s already been developed in the federal space. For example, CONNECT has been released by ONC as open-source technology. We’re working with states to leverage this investment in developing their own health information exchanges.
ExecutiveBiz: What does the addition of Tom Davis to the Agilex Board of Directors mean?
Melissa Chapman: In terms of how companies like Agilex can best meet the needs of government agencies, there is probably no one smarter than Tom. His perspective and insight will be invaluable. I think it’s also important to recognize that Tom has a long history with our leadership as he served as general counsel for Bob LaRose’s first company. As such, it’s also a great affirmation as Tom is someone who truly understands how committed we are to making a difference in the marketplace.
ExecutiveBiz: Agilex has gone from zero to $20 million in healthcare IT in the last two years. What can we expect next?
Melissa Chapman: Doubling the level of effective support we offer clients. We want to help our government counterparts meet the goals set for them with the Health Care Reform Bill, for instance. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, reform requires access to greater knowledge than we have today. The exchange of information and its accurate analysis will be key for us, as a nation, to realize cost savings and quality improvement. I see a great opportunity for us to partner with agencies as they begin to navigate the implementation of the bill in whatever form it passes.
ExecutiveBiz: On a personal note … returning to that conference last fall, which piqued your interest in Agilex, how does it feel to be part of the team?
Melissa Chapman: After leaving HHS I had a special set of experiences in terms of consulting, as well as more exposure to the private sector side of healthcare including payers and pharmaceutical companies. What Agilex offers is a hands-on opportunity to capitalize on this diverse experience to advance the mission of healthcare within the government. In particular, I believe our leadership around health information exchange can be critical to improving health outcomes while reducing waste within the system.