Executive Spotlight: Don Mestas, Harris Federal Healthcare Solutions VP

Don Mestas

Don Mestas is vice president of federal healthcare solutions for Harris Corp., where he manages the company’s business with the departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense and Health and Human Services.

Mestas’ business unit provides interoperability, imaging, managed services, infrastructure and systems and cyber integration.

The 25-year Harris veteran spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the company’s healthcare solution offerings, the future of healthcare information technology and increasing integration of mobile devices.

ExecutiveBiz: Harris is expanding and the company provides a lot of services to both the public and private sectors. How do you approach these contracts differently? In addition which area do you feel has the most potential for growth in the future?

Don Mestas: Government procurements and acquisition cycles are government fiscal year budget driven within the constraints of that budget, legislative mandates and executive branch policy.

On the commercial side it’s more the economy. Consolidation is occurring as hospital networks make acquisitions. They need to integrate those acquisitions and achieve interoperability, and they also have to address government policies like meaningful use.

But, when you get right down to it in both the government and the commercial markets, I think that successful companies will provide capabilities to meet a customer’s needs at the price the customer can afford. They’ll strive for win-win outcomes where both the buyer and the seller are happy about both the transaction and the results, and they will deliver on their commitments to turn those customers into repeat customers.

At the corporate level, we see opportunities for growth in both government and commercial business, including the international market as well. That’s true within our healthcare business too. We’ve got really great opportunities in both places.

ExecutiveBiz: The Pentagon just rolled out the fiscal year 2013 budget proposal and is looking to cut $487 billion throughout the next decade. How is Harris preparing for these new budget cuts?

Mestas: The FY 13’ budget request clearly reflects the transition from supporting wars and operational troops and moving toward the priority of communications modernization.

Despite the overall defense budget cuts, we see IT and communication spending for mission support to be stable or even increasing and those priorities are in Harris’ sweet spot. We believe we’re positioned very well there.

On the healthcare side, the cost of healthcare and the rate that it’s growing is not sustainable. Technology is going to be one of the keys to reducing that growth rate.

If the infrastructure is connected to get access to the data, the disparate data can be turned into decision support information that allows increased quality of care, improved health outcomes and lower costs.

If you look at the request for FY13, the VA’s information technology budget request was actually up and Health and Human Services appears flat.

ExecutiveBiz: What types of healthcare mobility services does Harris currently offer?

Mestas: Within healthcare, we offer a full range of mobility services from assessments to planning, design, implementation and operation of wireless mobility infrastructure.

We have implemented and now operate a unified communications solution for a large integrated health network in central Florida that was challenged by the exploding use of smartphones and tablets by their caregivers.

Just recently we announced the RF-3590, which is a ruggedized tablet for defense and public safety mission critical communications.

That device can be used for medical triage. It’s equipped with voice recognition and noise cancellation technologies.

We also have developed a tactical medicine application that we call TacMed for that device that has electronic versions of the DoD and NATO field medical cards.

The TacMed application on the ruggedized tablet runs seamlessly on our Falcon tactical radio networks that are currently widely deployed by both U.S. and foreign militaries.

ExecutiveBiz: You joined Harris in 87’ and have held a wide variety of positions since then. How have things changed throughout the last 15 years? In addition, are there any niche areas in communication services that you see Harris moving towards that may be a potential hot-spot or moneymaker in the future?

Mestas: First would be the divestiture of our copier and semiconductor businesses in 1999 allowing us to focus on assured communications in all of the markets that we serve.

Secondly, we’ve had a greater emphasis throughout that time period on affordability and time to market. While we still do a substantial amount of custom development, our collection of existing products is larger.

We’ve also expanded our portfolio with strategic acquisitions in the first responder communications, cyber services and security, satellite communications and healthcare markets.

And lastly, we have become much more active in communicating our actions and offerings to customers, investors, our employees and the communities where we live and work.

As far as where we place attention and hot-spots, I think the areas where we’ve made acquisitions are clearly a place of focus. I’ll highlight two specific to healthcare.

The first is interoperability. And that would be within federal healthcare, within commercial healthcare and between the two. The integration of complex data, making it usable in mission critical situations where lives are at stake is really a hallmark of Harris.

In the government sector, we’re playing a key role in establishing a framework for safely sharing critical patient information where and when it’s needed – at the federal level and in states across the country. On the commercial side, our Carefx interoperability platform takes the huge volume of patient data and makes it viewable, understandable and actionable for the care provider. It is in use at over 600 hospitals in the United States, and we expect that number to grow.

A second focus area is the VA and DoD who were early pioneers of electronic health records and using information technology to enable their missions. They built government specific solutions because no others were available.

Now the commercial marketplace has caught up. The VA and the DoD have both stated their existing systems are in need of modernization and integration.

Bringing best of breed commercial solutions to the federal government,  having the domain knowledge of the legacy systems, the data in them and how they’re used and being able to integrate commercial solutions is something I think  can provide value to the government.

We’re doing that in the VA currently for revenue cycle management and surgery work-flow.  I believe that there are similar opportunities in other administrative and clinical domains and in other agencies.

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