Health IT is a driving force for Mac Curtis, president and CEO of Vangent. The field has changed and expanded greatly since Vangent's entry, and Curtis is always looking for ways to expand his company's involvement. ExecutiveBiz chatted with Curtis about how the market has changed and what his plans are for the future.
ExecutiveBiz: The Healthcare IT practice has shown remarkable growth in the last few months. How do you see its future shaping up in the next five years?
Mac Curtis: We've grown tremendously in health IT, and it is now one of Vangent's core strengths. But we did not start there. We started with the U.S. Department of Education helping deliver student financial aid and leveraged our successes into the healthcare business. We began working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which serves over 47 million Medicare beneficiaries and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We completed several small niche acquisitions to accelerate our growth in enterprise architecture and electronic health records. We now work with the Indian Health Service and Military Health System. We built it from one block to the next. Now, we are looking at ways to help the Department of Veterans Affairs better deliver their services. When we talk about the future of health IT, we focus on outcomes, but not just healthcare outcomes. We also look at ways we can help our government customers improve the way they communicate information to citizens while reducing costs. We have a distinctive skill set in understanding healthcare quality data. We have employees who are practicing clinicians, medical doctors and nurses who understand the importance of health quality. We've matched that expertise with information technology and data analytics so we can provide our customers with actionable information that can help them define policy and reduce costs. We are particularly excited about how we can help the government detect and prevent healthcare fraud.
ExecutiveBiz: It sounds like to me that you all are specializing in a way to get an edge over your competition because healthcare IT is a very hot topic right now. What is the edge that Vangent has over your competition?
Mac Curtis: You can't be all things to all people, but we certainly have the expertise and focus in the areas where we perform best. The legacy of the business is in fixed-price, transaction-based contracts. Our clear advantage is that we ensure outcomes where the customer can say, ‘In a given process or a given transaction, how much will it cost?’ That's something we are very good at. It's in our DNA. It's critical to understand defined outcomes from contracts that require transparency and accountability on a fixed-price basis. With one customer, we moved from a paper-based system to a web-based, front-end solution that reduced processing time from 240 days to just one day. We know how to design from an architectural perspective then build those systems with CMMI Level 3 and ISO: 2000.
ExecutiveBiz: Outside of health IT, are there any particular areas that you would like to see the business developing towards that you haven't necessarily gone yet?
Mac Curtis: A key component of our business strategy is fraud detection and prevention in healthcare. Another major focus is healthcare data analytics to improve quality of care. We are also looking at cost-saving initiatives that drive pay for performance, not only in healthcare, but also in the education space. What we really do well is help agencies whose mission is to provide critical information to citizens. Our customers pay us to deal with their customers. It could be in student financial aid, pension plans, open season enrollment for retired government civil servants or passport-related information.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the biggest challenges Vangent has faced since you took over as CEO? How have you managed to overcome them?
Mac Curtis: The biggest challenge was when were sold by Pearson, a $7 billion U.K.-based media and education company and acquired by Veritas Capital. We transitioned to a standalone company and developed our own internal functions such as tax, general counsel, HR and finance. It is overwhelming when you have to do all of these things while running and growing the business. I'm proud to say we accomplished this major transition as a team.
ExecutiveBiz: Taking over as CEO, what have been some of the most important lessons you have learned?
Mac Curtis: When you lead an organization, there are certain things you must define for employees. The first is the culture of the organization. Vangent's culture is based on our six core values. The second key element is defining our mission, why do we exist? The third piece is understanding the company strategy and where the company is headed. You also have to communicate those key pieces all the way down through the organization. It has to be clear and simple because you want employees, regardless of where they are located or job title, to be able to talk about the company, with pride, about what we do. That doesn't happen overnight. You have to consistently communicate and lead by example.
ExecutiveBiz: Outside of work, what is something that most people would be surprised to hear about you?
Mac Curtis: Early in my career, I spent a lot of time on tugboats and trawlers doing engineering work. I spent so much time on fishing boats that now I can't eat sushi.