Q&A With Amy Caro On The Transformation Of Healthcare IT: MHealth & Liberating Big Data

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Amy Caro, Northrop Grumman

Amy Caro, Vice President of Healthcare IT programs at Northrop Grumman, spoke with WashingtonExec about how she believes mobility is transforming the healthcare industry here in the U.S. and around the world.

Caro reflected on how her division has changed in the past five years and the progress made with apps such as Blue Button Mobile App and Military Clinician App.

Big data, mobility, and “the next big thing” for healthcare IT were also highlighted in her interview.

WashingtonExec: Please start by telling us a little bit about your background and what you hope to achieve this year at Northrop Grumman?

Amy Caro: I have more than 28 years of experience with civilian and defense agencies including state government. I’ve been involved with the management, analysis, design, development and implementation of large scale automated financial, health, and related administrative information systems using mainframe, web-based and cloud technology. Several of these programs required major transformations around business processes and technology.

I’m a firm believer in offering our customers cost effective, innovative solutions that help meet their bottom lines and critical deadlines while taking them to the next generation of health systems with improved outcomes.  I also focus on collaborating with other industries and leveraging Northrop Grumman’s vast capabilities to help customers achieve their objectives.

How do you think mobility or “mhealth” has changed your role or the role of healthcare IT in the   US and around the world?

Amy Caro: Mobile platforms are outstanding vehicles to enhance real-time access of data by consumers and providers. We believe this will continue to evolve and become a dominant way health information is communicated in the future.  Northrop Grumman is dedicated to developing and providing mobile health solutions to the Veterans Administration (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) in particular.  Among our tools is the Blue Button Mobile App – currently available to veterans and their families – which allows them to access personal health information “anytime, anywhere” to improve their interactions and experience with providers and the healthcare system.  We are also developing a Military Clinician App to improve the information intake and transfer process for the patient’s visit. This will help military providers focus on what’s most important to them and all of us – delivering high-quality care to the patient.

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“BIG data can increasingly provide the right set of tools and capabilities to allow us to achieve a very sophisticated level of data awareness, use and analysis – a level we are only now beginning to approach. Ultimately, it will be a key driver in our ability to truly achieve the multiple goals we seek for our healthcare system.”

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WashingtonExec: How is big data changing the healthcare industry?

Amy Caro: There have always been over-arching goals in the healthcare system to identify efficiencies, reduce fraud and waste, improve knowledge of what works and what doesn’t and ultimately improve health outcomes for people in this nation.   BIG data can increasingly provide the right set of tools and capabilities to allow us to achieve a very sophisticated level of data awareness, use and analysis – a level we are only now beginning to approach. Ultimately, it will be a key driver in our ability to truly achieve the multiple goals we seek for our healthcare system.  As one of the nation’s leading health system integrators, Northrop Grumman will be a key contributor to the data evolution.  We support numerous systems that are at the forefront of health systems support and its evolution, including programs at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that seek to increase the use of Electronic Health Records (HER) through incentive payments and National Level Repository (NLR).

We are proactively reducing fraud, waste and abuse through the Fraud Prevention System (FPS) and creating quality-driven reimbursement models known as Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s).  Northrop Grumman has also partnered with the Social Security Administration (SSA) in their massive effort to improve and help modernize IT support services across their enterprise.

WashingtonExec: How has Northrop Grumman’s Healthcare practice changed over the past 5 years?

Amy Caro: Quite a bit. We have been supporting Health IT (HIT) for nearly 25 years and have built a strong reputation in health systems development and integration.  We have broadened our HIT capabilities over the last five years, supporting mobile health applications, EHR data integration, bioinformatics and health analytics.  Northrop Grumman has become a “true vertical” – broader and more integrated across federal, state and commercial market areas.

Finally, we are investing in the future with the establishment of two research and demonstration centers  – one in Atlanta focused on public health solutions and another in Baltimore targeting  healthcare challenges. The objectives for both are to develop innovative tools and solutions that meet our customers’ needs.

As a result of all these improvements, we have been able to significantly advance our HIT support efforts in the health market establishing a very strong presence in key programs at CMS and SSA, and maintaining our critical role as a major systems integrator for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other public health agencies, and are continuing our efforts at Veterans Administration/ Military Health Systems (VA/MHS) as well as in the state health market.

WashingtonExec: What is the biggest challenge you face with implementing new healthcare information technology?

Amy Caro: Changes in HIT are increasing daily. There are many opportunities to make a difference in BIG data, mobile health or other areas.  Our ongoing focus is to make sure that we develop the right tools, capabilities and skills that can affordably help our customers meet their objectives. This is critically important.  We are committed to these goals and I believe are accomplishing them across our multiple federal, state and commercial programs every day.

WashingtonExec: How drastic has the change been throughout your career in the way people view open data and mobility in the healthcare industry?

Amy Caro: It has been very significant. The evolution of HIT has enabled the transformation of healthcare – thus driving concepts like open data and mobility forward at a very rapid pace.  The evolution of HIT has truly “liberated” the data. Providers and consumers can access information by means that were not possible before.  This has also allowed the industry and health system planners to leap ahead in their thinking and start looking at even greater IT possibilities for the future.

For example, as the concept and value of health information exchange continues to expand, Northrop Grumman will be able to create and offer solutions that support its growth and development across the nation.  One project worth noting is the Military Interoperable Digital Hospital Test (MIDHT) bed. Through a partnership with DOD, VA and the Conemaugh Health System in Pennsylvania, we are able to create greater data interoperability across the military, veteran and civilian health space.  This will allow the providers to exchange critical clinical information by increasing efficiency for patients who are served by all these systems.

WashingtonExec: What do you think is the next big thing for healthcare IT?

Amy Caro: The advancement of BIG data integration and analytics – including relevant information such as clinical, financial, environmental and genomic.   The goal will be to enable the healthcare system, its providers and consumers to truly improve healthcare effectiveness and cost-efficiency.   Northrop Grumman has always been a national HIT leader and will continue to develop, implement and support this “next evolution” of HIT as it helps us move further toward our ultimate goal – improving health outcomes for all.

WashingtonExec: What is something most people might not know about you?

Amy Caro: I am actively involved with various non-profit agencies and charities including Rally for the Cure (Susan G. Komen), The American Red Cross National Capital Region and The Women’s Center.

I love to travel and grew up listening to classical music. I enjoy concerts and all sorts of music from contemporary to country to soft rock and of course classical.  I have recently taken up ballroom dancing with my husband – it’s a blast — and we truly enjoy our family time together with my two dogs.

WashingtonExec: What’s on your iPad?

Amy Caro: I have pictures of my two dogs on my iPad – Peyton and Sydney.   I have apps that help me get around — Trip Advisor, Gas Buddy, Traffic Application and Currency Conversion.  I am on the road and travel all the time. “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” is my favorite quote.

I also have apps that provide some degree of entertainment –Netflix and ESPN – and I am a big sports fan.

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