Returning veterans providing medical work for contractors


General Dynamics helped open the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
December 23, 2012

As the wars abroad wind down and defense spending shrinks, some contractors are turning their attention to the return of veterans and their health needs.

Government-focused companies have already been shifting into health-related work, seeing an opportunity in the move to electronic records and the promise of technology to make care more efficient. Now, this strategic turn is intensifying as the fisca

l cliff comes into view and the opportunities to translate government work into commercial business become clearer.

Harris, which is based in Florida but maintains its health group in Falls Church, has won work building a surgery workflow system that keeps a comprehensive record surrounding an operation, tracking the patient’s profile, tests and schedule, among other items.

The system is initially headed to eight Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and is slated to eventually be used at all of the VA hospitals that perform surgery.

The company established a health care unit in 2008, initially focused on the federal government.

Health care was “one of the things that we knew was going to be important,” said Don Mestas, vice president of the Harris health care solutions government business. “We have some conflicts going on across the world, we’ve got a lot of veterans back here at home and those folks deployed are going to be coming home and they’re going to need care.”

Falls Church-based General Dynamics last month announced it has won a contract worth up to $100 million to outfit Army hospitals, planning and purchasing the needed equipment, moving medical equipment from other locations and putting together a strategy to move the doctors, nurses and patients without disrupting care.

“In a nutshell, what we do is we turn a building into a hospital,” said Kerry Weems, general manager of General Dynamics Information Technology’s health sector.

General Dynamics also helped open the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, which included moving personnel and equipment from the now-closed Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well as other hospitals. Weems said General Dynamics outfitted 2.5 million square feet of new construction and 700,000 square feet of renovated space and relocated 10,000 staff members.

Beyond facilities and technology, some companies are also finding new research work. Dynamics Research Corp., which has an Arlington office, recently won contracts related to treatment of traumatic brain injury.

Under a $4.4 million contract, the company will seek to identify and develop best practices related to the treatment of traumatic brain injury, while a $14.9 million contract will fund the company’s efforts to document the results of clinical and nonclinical programs related to traumatic brain injury.

Contractors are hoping to translate the same skills into commercial work. Weems said General Dynamics sees growth in military medical work — for the Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance — but also in commercial and international medical facilities.

“Having completed one of the largest and most politically visible projects ever ... certainly gives us entree,” he said.

Harris bought workflow solutions company Carefx in 2011 to move into commercial health care.

“The commercial entities are trying to solve the same problems as the government entities,” Mestas said.

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