Steve Shane on the Challenges of the Healthcare Industry

steveshaneWe recently spoke with Steve Shane, Managing Director of Accenture’s health care and public sector businesses.  He told us what the two greatest challenges for health care are in the digital age, and why the maxim “all healthcare is local” is something of a misnomer.  The full text of the interview is below.

ExecutiveBiz:  Can you describe your current role at Accenture today?

Steve Shane:  Last summer, Accenture asked me to focus on the health and public sector industries.  We recently combined our health and public sector businesses, and my job is to focus on the federal component.  I lead all work that we do for the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the military health component of DoD and the Department of Health and Human Services.


I hear “all health care is local.”  Yet, at the same time, these agencies have to engage across a wide variety of private sector, state and local and federal entities to have the full picture via data into the best care and the best delivery of that care. -Steve Shane


ExecutiveBiz:  Accenture has a commercial practice as well as a federal practice.  What is your approach to attack both the federal marketplace as well as the commercial marketplace?

Steve Shane:  I came from the commercial sector years ago.  I spent my first 19 years at Accenture in the financial services arena.  I spent the last 10 in the public sector.  So I’m a good example of what we try to do at Accenture – bring relevant private sector experience to bear in the government context.  What I’m trying to do is draw from and utilize a very robust private sector practice both in hospitals and the insurance companies – the payer industry – and adapt it to the government’s business issues such as claims originating from the VA or CMS, Medicare or SSA, the VHA, and TriCare.

ExecutiveBiz:  How would you describe your approach in terms of teaming and partnering on large healthcare IT related opportunities?

Steve Shane:  We are open to a lot of different scenarios.  There are situations where product is important – a system or, especially in the health care arena, a product itself.  In those cases, often times the product provider must be the lead and we can be the “secret sauce,” so to speak.  We are the largest healthcare claims provider in the private sector.  Accenture runs about 70 percent of the claims in the healthcare industry.  We do almost 50 percent of the disability claims in the private sector so we know a tremendous amount about how claims can and should be processed and how to translate that to a government context.  In those cases, we intend to be a more substantive player, be it a prime or a major teaming partner.

ExecutiveBiz:  What would you say some of your challenges are as you are looking at the healthcare market and the federal space?

Steve Shane:  My number one challenge would be that, prior to me being asked to do this in the summer, we didn’t have an incumbency in this space.   We’re building it, but it’s probably my biggest challenge right now.  The second issue – and this is a classic experience that we’ve had every time we’ve tried to bring the private sector insight into a government context – is trying to make sure the insight is relevant and that our government clients understand us. It is very much about how do I explain, how do I adapt, how do I make relevant the private sector insights, assets and skills to the government challenges.  Making that clear in a proposal is a fairly significant challenge.

I see two big challenges specific to the healthcare industry.  I would call one “collaboration.” There must be a high degree of collaboration across a very large and extended system that aspires to be global.  How do we connect when we don’t have all of the standards that we’d like to have just yet?  Concurrent with this collaboration, there is more and more convergence in the industry – really trying to make sense of all of this data and of all of this connectivity and start to make an impact on providing quality healthcare at the point of need and at the point of delivery. The bottom line for us is that our government clients are facing almost identical issues to what the private sector faces.

ExecutiveBiz:   What are your government customers telling you as you travel the country in terms of what industry can do better?

Steve Shane:  Generally, they’ve been excited and receptive to Accenture coming on to the scene.  They are facing daunting challenges around managing huge amounts of information in a meaningful way.  Comparative evaluation research is here.   That means trying to understand what are the best treatments and how to personalize treatments in a chronic or acute situation.  It is the journey from “one-off health care,” as we have today, to personalized health care in the future.

I hear “all health care is local.”  Yet, at the same time, these agencies have to engage across a wide variety of private sector, state and local and federal entities to have the full picture via data into the best care and the best delivery of that care.  There is a huge amount of analytical ability and promise as the data get absorbed, electronified and understood so that we can start improving actual delivery of healthcare.

ExecutiveBiz:  What advice would you give potential teaming partners trying to understand the best people or folks to approach on opportunities in the federal space?

Steve Shane:  I would tell them to knock on the door, any door, and we’ll navigate you to the right spot.  There are several instances where someone has directed a teaming partner to me or to one of my team members very rapidly; within one or two emails, we’re connected and talking. 

ExecutiveBiz:  What would you say your leadership style or strategy is in terms of leading the large group that you currently have?

Steve Shane:  My leadership style has always been inclusive and transparent.  I’ve held the belief that I don’t have all of the good ideas.  Part of my mission as a leader is always to instill a certain amount of focus and prioritization to what we are doing so that we can deliver for our clients, our teaming partners and our stockholders.  It’s a little bit of both; let’s be very open, let’s consider lots of different angles but, once the decision is made, let’s stick with the plan and stay focused on it.

ExecutiveBiz:  What is something most people don’t know about you personally?

Steve Shane:  I’m an extremely avid snow skier.  I heli-ski as well as ski regular resort trails.  The beauty of this particular industry is that you can do a lot of things remotely and yet there is a high degree of client-facing time.  I’ve been able to go skiing almost 20 days a year and it’s a great way to recharge and refocus, and it gives me some creative think time.

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