Episode #18: Recap HIMSS 2021

Kevin Long: Broadcasting from Fairfax, Virginia, you are now tuned in to the Highlight Cast with your hosts, Adam McNair and Kevin Long.

Adam McNair: Hello, welcome everybody to another Highlight Cast, uh, joined as usual by Kevin Long. Hey, Kevin. Adam, how’s it going? Good. Also joined with two guests this week with Ashley Nichols, who leads the corporate strategy and development here at Highlight. Hey, Ashley. Hello. And also, uh, Emily Scantlebury, who runs our BD operations, um, and supports, uh, Capture. Uh, Emily, how are you? 

Emilie Scantlebury: Hey, Adam. Hey, group. Doing well. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Great. 

Adam McNair: Great to see you. So. Our topic for today that we wanted to talk about, so we actually went to a real live conference, uh, which is, to my knowledge, I think it’s the first one that we’ve been to since, uh, March of 2020, is my, it’s my recollection. Um, because I know we talked about in one of the previous episodes, I think, uh, Kevin and I had taken our last couple corporate out of town trips really, as far as travel, but so this was a To the HEMS 2021 conference in Las Vegas, uh, HEMS 2020 was canceled, I guess. I think, you know, maybe some of the 21. But so the first question, how did the conference operate as far as, you know, kind of things are, you know, certainly different. I know, I think HEMS happened right on the, the, the cusp of, you know, masks on, masks off. Um, you know, that actually anything. Any kind of reactions from just what it’s like going back to a conference after all this is gone on for two years now?

Ashley Nichols: Yeah, it was definitely kind of weird, but you know, I think like HIMSS required everybody participating to be vaccinated, right? And you had to either show your card or use one of the new, uh, Um, Vax passport, uh, apps like a clear has one, for example, that’s free. Um, that stores your info. But I think that the fact that it was spread out over like three hotel and casinos, you know, kind of, it burst that bubble a little bit because you had to go through so many. folks. Um, I think that’s not usually the case when they have an Orlando at the convention center. I think that this year was kind of like, um, it was kind of like the Olympics, right? Where we kept calling the Olympics, the 2020 Olympics. There was a lot of signage that still was like from 2020 hymns. Like they pushed a lot of it forward. They held it. In Vegas in August, because I think they just wanted to get it done so they can get back on track for for 2022. It’s gonna be in the spring again back in Orlando. Um, but it was good. And people in Vegas, surprisingly, were very mass compliant. We didn’t see any dust ups or anything, as you might see, and sin city, or you might expect, but I felt like people were good and places were really. Pretty strict about having people mask and reminding them to remask and things like that. So, um, all in all, not bad. 

Adam McNair: Gotcha. And from, uh, him standpoint, so is it normally in Orlando? Is that the, their typical location? 

Ashley Nichols: I’m not sure it’s like always in Orlando, but it is definitely a heavy favorite for that. And that is where it will be again, March. Um, and it is then in the convention center. I think it’s been in New Orleans before too. Um, but I think Las Vegas was one of the first places really open to getting conferences going again. Um, and maybe it was able to accommodate their schedule. Nobody chooses to go to Vegas in August, really.

Adam McNair: Yeah, I did notice that. I know I, we had talked a little bit about. What events we think we might be going to and I know Emily and I had talked about one that is in Detroit in December, so yeah, that and Vegas in August are probably, I’m guessing somebody got a break on the conference costs to be able to make that happen. Vegas was crazy heatwave then too, right? Uh, 

Emilie Scantlebury: yeah. It was a hundred and five hundred and two, but it’s, you know, it’s a desert, a hundred and two, a hundred and five. So during the day, it’s, 

Kevin Long: so you only burst into flames after five minutes out in the, in the air instead of, 

Ashley Nichols: well, yeah. The even funnier thing is there was like, well, it’s a dry heat, but, uh, every, all the locals were complaining that it was unseasonably humid there while we were there. And we’re talking like 35%. So for us, that’s like nothing, but for a place that’s used to like zero humidity. They were so sweaty and uncomfortable. Like I felt bad. I was like, Oh wow, really? Okay. 

Emilie Scantlebury: But, you know, I was just going to say to Ashley’s point, it was, um, it was of course our first conference back and it was really intrigued to see how some of the logistics were going to run, like the check in process, because we did have to show that proof of vaccination. You had to make sure everybody was wearing a mask. the entire time and it was very smooth. So credit to the show organizers, you know, HIMSS is such a big presence across multiple industries or, you know, a number of people there. Um, and I was really pleasantly surprised at how smooth it was operating.

Adam McNair: Yeah, which does leave me, Emily, I was going to ask, what So for anybody that hasn’t been before, so HIMSS is kind of the premier health IT conference, but it’s, it’s commercially in government, but what, how would you summarize kind of the overall scope of the of the conference? 

Emilie Scantlebury: Great question, yeah, so it’s pretty, it’s pretty large. It’s Spans big pharma, um, individuals who run networks of hospitals, Uh, federal government, federal health I T. Um, and so the scope of the conference touches, you know, touches across that space, whether that’s looking at trends in the commercial space. Um, and I think that’s the one thing that’s really important in terms of really, um, you know, as we look at the, you know, in the health care space, looking at trends of emerging health care techniques, emerging health care, new tools and technologies like physical hardware, physical software, things of that nature, all the way to like, talking about covert response on the government side and how the government is allocating funds to, you know, to, to help. I’m going to be talking about how we’re going to respond to pandemics in the future. Um, so, you know, it was very vast, a number of breakout sessions, all happening concurrently. It’s really interesting. to be able to see all those different kind of flavors in the health IT space kind of come together and and find the commonalities across industries.

Adam McNair: Well, very cool. Yeah, it’s a conference. I’ve not been to before. I’ve typically as far as conferences. I think I err on the side. IAC or FC, a kind of government industry organization conferences, as opposed to, um, kind of focused line of business, uh, conferences, but I know a lot of people that have gone, I know the LinkedIn streams as everybody was out there, you know, a lot of, it felt like, you know, hundreds of posts a day from, uh, from people that were out there. So as far as. Major areas of discussion. Um, so Ashley, do you have like thoughts as to what really stuck out to you as far as major kind of conversation or themes to the, to the, 

Ashley Nichols: yeah, I’d say, you know, Emily and I stuck a lot to the ones that were based around, you know, Federal health care, right? So they had federal, they had a federal health care pavilion. Um, and so folks who were sort of focused on that, um, and then the conference, the mini breakout rooms around that had a lot of things focused, um, on issues within sort of federal health care. So you had VA, DHA, sorry, DHA, um, HHS folks, a lot were the speakers there, or people who support them from, from GovCon. So I think a lot of our stuff was focused there. Obviously, there was a ton of talk about COVID and the ways that it has changed health care, the ways that it has changed technology to provide health care, um, and, and some innovations around there that I think Emily will talk about one that we found super intriguing. In, in a minute. Um, there was a lot of talk about sort of usability and viability in this intersection of creating tools that are functional for the industry, but also more user friendly and intuitive there, you know, and, and that’s on a broader scale, that’s not just federally focused, but, um, as va and DOD often remind us they’re, you know, the biggest healthcare provider in the country with the services they provide for veterans. So, um. They have to be very customer focused in a lot of ways too. And a lot of systems are focused very much on provider needs and not necessarily user needs, but even on the provider side, not necessarily really understanding what it is the nurses in these hospitals are doing or the providers are actually doing and how they need to use the system. So, um, I saw, you know, a number of things about modernization and design. You know, in discussion around the I. T. And what else, Emily? We heard a 

Emilie Scantlebury: lot about some emerging tech and, um, you know, biometrics information, how biomet the rise of biometrics is not only helping secure a lot of the new softwares and, um, user interfaces out there, but it’s also helping improve the usability for those users. So, um, kind of looking forward into the future, how biometrics might change, um, the way in which we’re developing software, uh, and the way in which we’re kind of as end users, even in our civilian lives, um, using that software. We saw that a lot. 

Ashley Nichols: I think, and there was a lot about, obviously data, um, electronic health records, uh, records portability. Which is equally as applicable within, you know, sort of the federal spaces as it is with, uh, commercial spaces, um, and then security around that data. This is my, my new favorite buzzword that I’m here to learn more about this homomorphic encryption, which is really about securing large amounts of, of data in the cloud. That’s really specific to. Uh, not specific, but very applicable, obviously, to the health care industry, but it also allows you to run a lot of processes on that data or maybe extract useful information from that data without decrypting it. So you never use the security features while still being able to run process on it. That’s the big thing there. And interestingly. We recently did a survey at ACT IAC of government IT leaders and people supporting IT leaders to figure out which emerging technologies were going to be, uh, super important to them over the next five years. And this homomorphic encryption was at the top of that list as well. So I went from, you know, not knowing about it three months ago to now repeatedly hearing it, hearing about it and seeing it, you know. As you know, really kind of an emerging technology focus for for some of our government customers, 

Adam McNair: you know, and I think protecting it that kind of information. Um, and I think back, I was involved at 1 point in, uh, training for HIPAA implementation at the point where HIPAA kind of started and that was pretty cloud. So, at that point, it was, you know, Kind of simple. You just said, look, either this system holds PII or it doesn’t, and if it does, we just note that, and you have to get an extra level of approval if you’re going to have any data exchange with that system. But they were physical systems, and you could say, well, we know where it’s stored, because like, you could point to the box and say what’s right there. And, uh, as as that becomes cloud driven, you know, there’s so many things that that cloud has revolutionized so many things and data exchange is so much different and processing and everything else. But that kind of security is is so much more complicated. You know, we see that with with C. U. I. Uh, we see that with, with PII, um, once, once you get information and it’s kind of just everywhere and then replicates the places and all of that, there’s a lot of complexity that comes into that.

Ashley Nichols: And I think that this aims to, um, remove the necessity for that replication, right, which is that you’d have like one version that’s complete with PII, then you’d have one that was stripped out or slightly different. For another system to use and another system to use, if you don’t ever have to unencrypt the data to run the business processes that you need to from a central location, then you can, I guess, have a more singular data source or data lake of all that information and run multiple processes out of it.

Kevin Long: And it’ll be so much faster not having to unencrypt the data to do the work on it and then just have the response. The data that is worked on with the encrypted data. Also be remaining encrypted. So that work product of that remains encrypted and it’s all there. And it’s so much more than just encrypted in transit, encrypted at rest. Now it’s. 

Ashley Nichols: Yeah. So I would expect to see more of this in, in things. Wouldn’t be surprised if we saw something, if this would pop up, say at the Act IAC, you know, conference coming up in the fall, that kind of stuff. I think we’re going to see a little bit more, um, about that. I, I mean, I’m, I’m super interested in, especially as we start talking about, you know, larger data management issues and. And, you know, the theory, the concept of creating data lakes and all of that stuff, uh, I think we’re going to see a lot more of it. 

Adam McNair: So an interesting topic, um, you know, we talk about AI a lot and I think a lot of these topics, you know, I’ve seen before, whether it be the, um, The Gartner Magic Quadrant, they also have a hype cycle of where things are. If nobody’s ever looked at that before, their hype cycle is where something is from the standpoint of being talked about to actually being understood, to being In production to where it really is kind of a tested technology, and I think a I was there a while ago. Like I, you know, at the point where people were talking about cloud, they didn’t really know what it was. They just they heard that it was good. And so they wanted some. Um, and I think a I was there a couple of years ago. We had conversations as we would be solutioning deals or we’re talking about programs. Where AI was on the roadmap, but it didn’t necessarily have a definition to it. Um, I have seen, you know, and I think this ties into PII. I will say one of the things that that we’ve done internally is we now use an AI driven tool that that monitors our enterprise for PII. So even after you’ve had a policy established that says, Hey, don’t, don’t send this in an unencrypted manner, don’t email this out, et cetera. I mean, you can tell everybody what to do, but you know, when, when you, anytime you see the grass worn because people don’t want to walk the sidewalk, you know that people are going to do what they’re going to do at some levels. So we’ve, we’ve implemented AI tools so that we’re constantly looking for things people might be doing that are. Or a risk from A-A-P-I-I or C. So I do think there’s an intersection of AI with that. But I’m curious, did you guys have, I, I know that there were, there was AI on the agenda. I’m, I’m wondering what kinds of, you know, how much of it, what was talked about and, and what areas you, you know, you, you heard people discussing AI at himss?

Emilie Scantlebury: Yeah, so we, we heard a lot of ai and that’s to be expected. I feel, you know, AI has. been to your point, Adam talked about for a couple of years now. And I think as an industry at large, even outside the federal sector, it’s something that we are all learning on what that actually looks like from an implementation, um, and execution standpoint. Uh, the large kind of message that I heard, especially on the first day during one of the CIO panels was how our understanding of AI, um, is the of changing a bit, especially with the rise of global pandemics, the rise of natural disasters. Um, you know, when, when these events occur, it’s feeding these algorithms that have been driving AI for that AI bot for years. It’s kind of skewing their data, and it’s changing the way that that the AI is thinking, changing the way that they’re ingesting and behaving as a result of that data ingestion. So, um, it’s kind of begging the question of what new role does human data cleansing play inside of AI and, and the expansion of that, I think. You know, a big takeaway that I really heard frequently was it’s going to be a bigger footprint than what we had initially anticipated as an industry where we thought, you know, hey, we can build these algorithms. We can create these massive data lakes, um, feed it into the AI and kind of let it do its thing. You know, it’s going to require much more of a human footprint. So it was interesting to really listen in, uh, because of course COVID was a big theme on, on how that, how that’s kind of skewing, um, some of that.

Adam McNair: Yeah, I, I think it’s, that’s where for me, the conversations about how much can be automated, tuning AI and having human engagement, it usually is not just one or the other. Uh, there’s usually some sort of, you need to have kind of a well defined charter for what you’re trying to accomplish and then you can decide how much of it is technology and how much of it is people, uh, which I think ties into something else that when I’ve supported health IT, it’s mostly been health and human services. hrsa, NIH, uh, those kinds of organizations, uh, a a little bit, very little on the, like the DHA or or VA side. I’ve been, you know, at, so back when I was, you know, CACI, years back, uh, they had quite a bit of VA work and so I would talk to those teams. But as far as direct support, it was always the, kinda the HHS side of the world. Um. And there were different parts of the government, at least from my experience, where some agencies, when they were tackling a technology problem, it was a technology lead supported by the kind of medical health science community, and then in others, it was the reverse. It was the mission science. Your customer was a doctor. Your customer was a research scientist, and, um, And technology was very much just an enabler. Uh, I’m interested, you know, whoever wants to, to, to jump in first, perspective of the technology and, and health balance. And was this an IT conference with, with medical aspects? Was it a health conference with IT or is it more integrated than that? Neither of you have thoughts around that angle?

Emilie Scantlebury: I think, you know, it, the message was it’s truly a mix, um, where we are in a boom right now of information technology expansion from physical tools that are getting better every year to AI to software that’s getting stronger and it’s getting integrated more and more into our lives. daily. Um, I think the big message that we heard was it’s not a bandaid where we have challenges as an industry to better serve your end users, whether those are doctors or that’s a network of hospitals, or that’s understanding and visualizing data trends to better prepare for the next pandemic. A software only takes you so far. Um, you know, it really is driven by people and whether or not, um, your organizations, whether that’s DHA or highlight, um, whether your organization is equipped from a process standpoint and from a people standpoint to really implement and leverage and, and, um, capitalize on, on that new information technology. So it was definitely a mix of both. We heard some really cool new it trends, but we also heard some of the. Challenges like this AI piece where, hey, there needs to be more people push, more human push, more, um, you know, support human support behind it. So both would be my takeaway. Ashley, did you have any thoughts?

Ashley Nichols: Yeah, I agree. I think, I mean, there were some, I mean, like I said, there were literally like hundreds of sessions. And so some of them are very much focused on a type of technology or a type of thinking or innovating within the federal IT workspace. Some of them are really specific. So like, you know, a lot of things around again, like I said, the EHR came up a ton, even just by casual mentioned in everything. And then, but then there were also a lot of ones about how providers are leveraging existing technology to provide services in a new way. There was, you know, there was a lot of focus on some mental, not a lot of focus, but I saw several around. Leveraging social media and technology platforms for providing, uh, mental healthcare in a pandemic and even post pandemic thing, right? You have a lot of people who are anxious and stressed and they’re seeking out these services and, um, you know, trying to find a more effective way to reach out to this constituency. Um, there was one about someone was using TikTok, um, to, to put out information about like, Pandemic mental health care, you know what I mean? Like taking care of yourself in this or whatever, but so, so it was like the hardcore technology. And then I am a provider of health services to people. And this is how I use technology and leverage some of these tools and things that are out there. Um, but always, and then, but especially during this time, and then in a lot of cases, how it’s somewhat permanently shifted the way they will continue to provide some services, um, pandemic not withstanding.

Adam McNair: You know, I think as I’ve been to some conferences, you know, like this, or just met with customers about, you know, mission, I think that’s one of the areas that I, that when we, when we engage on programs, I think it’s one of the reasons why we’re always excited to work on, you know, what we kind of call mission area. Technology solutions. It’s because kind of being able to add in some understanding of what the actual work domain is. Um, you know, I think about having worked on consular systems for State Department and you have conversations about, well, Out of 270 locations, you know, some of them have bandwidth like you’d be sitting across the street, and some of them are low grade dial up connectivity that, and of course I’m sure some of that has changed now, but when I was working on it, you know, low grade dial up that’s not always available all the time. Um, you know, I think I’ve, I’ve been involved in things like that. I’ve, I’ve had conversations with, um, you know, when you look at first responder, whether that be, you know, DHS, um, they’re showing up on site that how they don’t know when they’re going to have access to power. They don’t know when they’re going to have access to Wi Fi. Um, also some of the, the law enforcement was like, have you ever tried to wear a tactical helmet? And, and tactical glove and type on a, on a tablet, um, and just some, some things like that, that are real life use cases that they sound like, oh, okay, well, we’ll just go ahead and note that down. But it kind of informs everything that you’re doing. I mean, it, it, the entire approach has to be shaped around, and The specifics of how it’s going to be used. Um, you know, one of the kind of integrated technology and health topics that I’ve heard, you know, around federal programs for a long time is the concept of telemedicine. I know. Just so many things, whether it’s disaster recovery, and they go, like, we can’t get a bunch of doctors there, but if we could get an x ray machine there, we could have somebody read an x ray and, you know, almost anywhere. And a lot of commercial health care providers have done that. I mean, I don’t know if you guys have done this, but, um, You know, our company healthcare has a telemedicine feature and, uh, during COVID at some point where, you know, one of us needed something at home from a healthcare standpoint, we’re like, Oh, well, I guess we don’t want to go to the doctor. We did the telehealth thing. And they’re like, yeah, that’s probably this. And we’ll, um, you know, get your prescription or something. So you don’t have to actually go to the doctor, which at least for us was never a big deal before. In the, in the height of the COVID standpoint, where you’re like, I don’t think we want to go sit in a doctor’s office right now. Um, so I I’ve seen that on the commercial side, how much telemedicine type of, of conversation was there at, at HIMSS? 

Ashley Nichols: Yeah, Emily, go ahead and tell them about the, that army program that we saw. That was so cool. 

Emilie Scantlebury: Yeah, I would love to. This was one of my favorite sessions that we were able to sit in. And this was hosted at the federal health. pavilion. Um, so it was really interesting to learn about. It was a program called net sen, N E T C N N. Um, and it was provided by DHA, but funded by parts of HHS. And essentially. To like explain like I’m five, it’s a sort of like FaceTime for doctors where, um, you know, these rural communities that may only have one or two doctors, one or two surgeons, um, in their networks of hospitals that are, you know, in a radius of 100, 150 miles, whatever it may be, who were completely overwhelmed by, you know, COVID. Patients needing care immediately, um, and needing some pretty intense care were able to work with DHA at no cost to the hospital, um, and essentially, like, order doctor support. They were able to completely brief on their patients. It’s all through just a 4G network. They didn’t even need high connectivity, which is a big problem, um, for rural communities of course. So low connectivity, we’re able to just hop on, you know, talk through, chat through what’s happening with their patients and, and get that, um, support on demand. Um, it really helped impact these, um, smaller hospitals and the number of patients that they were able to treat, um, especially as they were, you know, especially as they were becoming overwhelmed with COVID patients. So it was really cool to hear how telemedicine, which has started, you know, only a couple of years ago, was able to impact, um, something that none of us could have seen, which is that response to COVID. So, yeah. I really like that session. Um, 

Ashley Nichols: it was interesting that they said that they worked with a couple of, uh, specific partners. I think Deloitte was one of them and another company, and these were the physician providers, right? And they provided these essentially on call physicians, um, that, you know, could be used for just these understaffed facilities, which obviously would have applicability as we continue to face doctor shortages across the country, especially in rural areas, um, you know, could change. You know, the paradigm shift there about the quality of care that it will provide. You know, one of, someone else’s first question was, um, do you see this, you know, being com, you know, a commercial offering? And he’s like, well, no, we’re, we’re DHA, we’re DHA, so whatever. But I wanted to say, I bet your boots, those companies that are providing these doctors for you already have a commercial offering to do the same thing, you know, to contract out with some of these clinics and hospitals. Um, so. But yeah, it was definitely one of the cooler ones and just to see how that program came together inside the federal government, you know, facilitated by DHA, funded by HHS, you know, made available just to the, to the, to the areas in need across the country. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, that’s very interesting. And I, it was, it was a while ago, but at one point I was involved in a HRSA program that out of their rural health organization that did focus groups around the country. So HRSA was funding. focus groups that were in person focus groups around the country to understand gaps in health coverage because, you know, data is one thing and you can go and say, hey, I only have one data per X number of people in this county or, you know, those kinds of stats. But when you actually sit down with them and say, you know, why don’t you, you know, If you haven’t had a checkup, why didn’t you go get one? And they say, well, actually, it’s because the one doctor that we do have is all the way on the other side of the county. So it really isn’t an even distribution where they’re in the middle. So it’s a two hour drive for me to go get there. And they’re only open during hours where I’d have to take an entire day off of work. And I only get so much time off, or I’m paid hourly, etc. So I think it’s, It’s really neat to see out times like that where the federal government is able to understand requirements of, because this country is really diverse. I mean, when we work on on systems for the government, one of the things that I always think is so interesting is their requirements are unique. It’s so many times because. Sometimes it’s geographic distribution, global distribution, the encryption and security requirements are different, which could be interesting. And I, I’ve seen working on disconnected user scenarios where they said, look, we don’t know how often these people are going to be able to be attached and. That’s kind of easy to do now, but it didn’t used to be. And so I think a lot of those kind of technology use cases, uh, the federal government at times is a forcing function to say that they have a requirement that they’re willing to pay to have fulfilled because it may not be commercially viable for. A commercial company to decide they want to offer uniform coverage across the country, but when the government prioritizes it and is willing to, you know, put funding behind it, it’s, it’s interesting to see, um, to see what, what they can come up with. So very neat kind of scenario, encouraging when you can hear something like that, where the government’s able to provide something that’s, that’s helpful across the country. Um, So as far as the conference, I know you said that there were tons of sessions and Um, were there specific speakers or anything that really stuck out to you as far as, Hey, this was great. It was, it was enlightening. Or, um, you know, there was some aspect of it. It was, it was compelling that it still sticks in your head, you know, several weeks after the conference. Now,

Ashley Nichols: actually, one of the last sessions that we went to. Was the CXO, uh, conversation. And it was the former CIO from VA, uh, James Freer. Um, and then Don Rucker, who’s the former, um, ONC national coordinator for IT. And I had to actually look up, um, ONC, but it’s in big HHS. It’s the office of the national coordinator, but I guess they have different coordinators, national coordinators around health. He, you know, so basically he was like the CIO. They’re, uh, sort of advising the technical direction for HHS and, you know, they talked a lot about sort of the, the modernization and the things that they were trying to do in the agencies when they were there, you know, VA was specially has, we all know how the visibility that VA has been under. the last several years. Um, and technology plays a not inconsequential part in helping create some of the improvements around services for the veterans. Um, but it was how much they didn’t just talk about technology so much as they talked about like organizational change and culture and creating the organizations to provide these services. Um, so that the would better align with the mission that they were there to provide. Um, so, and then, you know, and, and then one of them, actually, I think it was Freer from VA recommended this book, can’t remember what it’s called, but it was written by this woman from Gartner. And basically it was like the Machiavellian approach to being a CIO. Um, and, but the whole point was, is that people consider a CIO in a lot of ways, a very passive person or, um, you know, uh, not. Not a difference maker within the organization. And it really advocated for how that is not true and how to be sort of the lion in the CIO organization. And looking into that book a little bit after he recommended, he said it was like the best thing for for a CIO to ever read. It made me sort of understand where he was coming from much more and sort of, um, you know, really trying to be a force for change through the it to meet the mission requirements within there. But a lot of it too was about, um, creating the right team and creating the right culture and. Um, reinforcing, um, the notion of what mission they were there to serve was. So, it, it was just as much about, I think, organization and people as it was technology, to Emily’s point earlier. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s an interesting conversation to have. And I, I think any, whether it’s health IT or any, any space where you’ve got technology leadership outside of the program organization, Um, I mean, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve seen CIO and CTO organizations that were very much just recommendation driven. Um, and they would try to suggest a target architecture, but the people that had programmatic funds could still spend them as they wanted. Uh, sometimes they were inserted into the procurement workflow, and then sometimes they drove everything. Uh, I mean, I’ve, I’ve been a part of, Having an agency decide that they were going to consolidate all IT spending under CIO, and now they spend the money, so it doesn’t matter that you said you really liked, you know, low code platform, whatever. If that’s not on the baseline, you’re not going to use it. And, um, You know, so I, I think there’s like anything else, every agency is different. There’s no right answer for the way that should always be. And, uh, I think when you get down to the people in the role, there are probably personality fits that are team builders and, and facilitators and would, uh, really thrive in an organization where even though they don’t control any of the funding, they would, they would be kind of organizationally change focused and move forward, and then there’s others that would probably be, you know, uh, from a. A program management kind of standpoint would be more effective just owning all the money and saying, look, you give me your requirements. I’ll build all your systems. And then you let me know if you need it. Need something worked on. Um, I think 

Ashley Nichols: the thing about, um, the VA guy. is that he presumably was there during, you know, the last five, seven years where there’s been that huge focus on, uh, veterans not being able to get appointments, no availability, their VA centers, and then sort of no visibility on how to help these folks, people waiting six months for appointments. And those are the kinds of problems that in large part have been solved by technology, right? Unifying scheduling capabilities. So you can create visibility into if this person can’t be seen here, where can they be seen? And, and how to flex those resources. And so, uh, you know, I think, you know, obviously from a sort of how they provide healthcare is one thing that changes, but I think there was a lot of technology changes that went in to VA is more high visibility challenges, um, in the last couple of years. And so hearing, you know, him talk a little bit about his philosophy as a CIO, knowing that. That’s when he was there. It was pretty interesting. Oh, yeah. The wolf in CIO’s clothing is what the book is called. Emily just reminded me. I did download it on the audio book. I haven’t finished it yet.

Emilie Scantlebury: Very cool cover as well. It’s enticing.

Adam McNair: So there’s one other thing I have to ask about. So as you guys were, you know, returning from the conference. I got a video texted to me of a robot. What was the deal with the robot at the con? Because here’s the thing. Every now and then I’ve been to conferences where they try to have something cool that kind of draws you in or whatever. I’ve not been to CES. I’ve never made that leap to say like, oh, I should go see that. But, you know, little stuff like, oh, look, here we have a drone or here we have whatever. There was a robot. What was the deal with the robot?

Emilie Scantlebury: Um, we’re best friends now. We’re pen pals. No, I’m kidding. 

Ashley Nichols: The video is posted on our LinkedIn. For those of you who are interested in seeing what it is, I honestly cannot tell you what company that robot was repping. Like we immediately saw it and I was like, Emily, 

Emilie Scantlebury: you have to talk to it. It was tunnel vision. We, we locked eyes. And, you know, robot eyes to human eyes. And I was like, I have to shake this robot’s hand. Walked up and we had a conversation. It, it can, it listens. It didn’t hear me one time ’cause it, you know, we’re in the conference floor. And so it said, oh, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. And it turned its head where the speaker was to like, come in and lean in and listen to me. Um, it was. like having a conversation pretty much with a person. It was honestly wild. I have seen, when I went to Afsia Rocky Mountain, which was two years ago now, I had seen the robot dogs before, but this was my first seeing like a more of a person. If you will, 

Ashley Nichols: he was so small. I just wanted to call him a robot child. Um, but it was, of course, Emily was like, I have to meet this robot. And I of course was like, well, then I have to film this. And she said, can I shake your hand? And he said, not too tight. Yep.

Adam McNair: Wow. It was an impressively fluid interaction from the video that I saw. I mean, the thing initially when we showed it, it looked a lot like, if anybody has seen like the old, like 1970s Buck Rogers TV show, there’s a little robot named Twiggy. It looked a lot like that. Yeah. Except, I think that thing just had a speaker in it that some, that a human spoke through as opposed to, this was a little kind of, I don’t know, how big is it, like, was it like kid sized? Is that approximately how big a thing was? 

Ashley Nichols: Yeah, it’s probably four feet tall. Yeah, I’d say four and a half feet tall. Yeah, that sounds about right. I mean, it could move around, it could roll around, like it definitely adjusted itself to like pivoted to face us as Emily was talking to him. And interestingly, as we walked away, like we were probably 50 feet, 100 feet away, and he was still watching Emily. Like, like trained on Emily, I guess, until someone else comes to interact with it. It’s just trained on that subject. Um, but yeah, it was, it was a trip and it was, it was a, it was a fun thing. And uh, again, it’s on our LinkedIn. Everyone check it out. 

Emilie Scantlebury: Yeah. Shameless plug. Go check out our LinkedIn. You’ll see Shameless plug. Yeah. The best video from him. So it, it was really cool. It was, 

Ashley Nichols: you’ll, you’ll notice at the end. Um, Emily’s eyes are kind of like saucers, uh, based on the interaction itself. You know, a little bit of like amazement, maybe a little bit of fear. I’m not sure, but it was definitely, it was definitely, uh, funny for sure. 

Emilie Scantlebury: Yes, it was a mix of emotions. And if you all could see my eyes right now, they’d be the same.

Every time I think about the robot, just.

Adam McNair: Very cool. Well, thank you guys. I mean, I think it’s, it’s super helpful to hear kind of the experience of going to a conference like that. And, um, especially these multi day conferences. I think now that coven is is is a thing. Uh, the decision process is even more complicated. If you’re going to go to 1 of these conferences, because you don’t know exactly what to expect. You know, is it still going to be a feel like it is a reasonably beneficial interaction going to this conference or are you just there and it’s segmented and it doesn’t feel like it was helpful because it was so compartmentalized or whatever. Um, but it does. It sounds like there was a lot of good content. Uh, the question I guess I’d have to as we as we wrap up here is so hymns is coming up again. In the spring, is that the next, the next iteration? Yeah. Yeah. So do you guys officially recommend it? Like, is this, is this, you feel like this was a good use of, you know, three days? 

Ashley Nichols: I think that for this one, it was a good learning experience for us about how to most effectively participate in HEMS going forward. I think that we, Yeah. I think from a participation standpoint, the networking opportunities are good, visibility into what different agencies are doing is good. Um, even if it’s stuff that we don’t specifically do, having an understanding of where that segment of government health is going and looking to, um, is always good from a situational awareness standpoint. So I think it just informed us on how to. Make the most of future hymns engagement. 

Emilie Scantlebury: I was going to agree with Ashley. You know, definitely for anybody going into hymns, if you have never been, it is probably the largest show I personally have been to in my career. Yeah. Um, and as such, it’s not something that you can go into kind of. And float around, you know, really look at that schedule. Really make your plan. Ashley and I had pre picked a couple of our sessions, and I think that’s why we were able to take some of those takeaways out. We did hear from others like, I don’t even know where to start. So they provide a lot of good materials leading up to the conference. So definitely closely review those as you guys are preparing. So yeah, I think it would go again for sure. 

Adam McNair: Great. Yeah. I, I do think that when they have some kind of either a domain or a Some kind of a focus, it makes it easier. I’ve, I’ve gone a couple of times. I don’t know if Fosse is still a thing, but Fosse used to be like just the, the giant federal contractor event. And I went once or twice and I was like, you know, if you happen to sell, you know, a better kind of, of waterproof boot or a, Helicopter maintenance app or whatever. I can understand going and trying to roll out your product or get people’s attention, but as a general kind of service solution contractor, other than just stopping by to see people or network a little bit or whatever, uh, it was a bit overwhelming and kind of just, you know, not sure what to do. focused enough where I really felt like I got tremendous value from it, but, um, him sounds, sounds solid. So I, I mean, it feels, it sounds like we’re probably going to have, have more people going in the future, uh, than less. And, um, uh, seems like as they move it around, um, you know, as you mentioned, uh, one consolidated location is always nice for a conference that you don’t have to be, uh, you know, strung around or taking shuttle buses or, or whatever. Well, great. Well, thank you. I hope everybody, um, Has has enjoyed the kind of general conversation around the, the hymns 2021, uh, we’ll probably do this as we, as we go to major conferences, uh, act I acts, uh, imagination, I believe is what they, what they refer to now is a, um, is a. Big industry, government industry conference, um, and we’ll probably talk about that as we have some of these other ones that are, that are booked. We will certainly, uh, uh, speak about those. Actually just mentioned, uh, That she and I attended a conference a couple of years ago in, uh, in San Francisco. That was Sim Tech. It was a semantic modeling technology conference that because we had, we’re doing a, a pilot program at our company, uh, we got invited to come to. And that was probably also an example of something that was. Really, really focused around the technology area that when, when people were interested in that technology, that was definitely a place to, uh, a place to be. But I don’t know that we, um, I don’t know how deeply we fit into the, that, that overall community. Was that, is that your recollection? Actually, 

Ashley Nichols: it was. Well, we were there, though, with like a partner company. It’s your point about why you go there because you have something to rule out or show and they, Yeah. They did right. They had a low code solution. They were, you know, based out of the Netherlands. Um, and so they really belong there and us being sort of their federal partner. We tagged along and did some boothing to talk to some federal customers and that kind of stuff. 

Adam McNair: Absolutely. Yeah, that was, so that was SimTech back, um, a few years back. Uh, so, and just as some notes for other things that we will be attending. So you could probably also look for, um, an episode as a recap. We’re going to be going to DOTUS, uh, later this winter. Uh, there’s an AWS. Uh, conference coming up and there’s also tentatively, I believe, a, uh, uh, a software factory conference. That’s the one that’s supposed to be in Detroit in December that, uh, I think we, we may be going to. Um, I know I’m really excited about, about the weather for that, but, um, we will let you know which ones we’re going to be, uh, attending. Uh, you can also, uh, keep up on our, uh, Our activities like that, the, the news link on our website, highlight tech. com or our LinkedIn feed is always a really good source, uh, highlight technologies, the, the LinkedIn feed for where we are and who’s doing what inside of the company. So our next episode, we are going to go back into our, uh, deeper dive of DevSecOps with some of the technology notes and, uh, Explaining some of the intricacies of what certainly sounds really, really intricate, but seems like it operates like a well oiled machine when the right people are doing it. So, uh, we will get back to that, but, um, that will conclude today. So thank you to, to Kevin, to Ashley, to Emily. Uh, thanks everybody very much for listening and we will talk to you on the next Highlight Cast. 

The views and opinions expressed in this episode are those of the hosts and do not necessarily reflect Highlight Technologies and or any agency of the U. S. government.

Highlight Ranks No. 820 On The 2021 Inc. 5000 List

Fairfax, VA – August 17, 2021 – Inc. Magazine today revealed that Highlight Technologies is No. 820 on the annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses. Intuit, Zappos, Under Armour, Microsoft, Patagonia, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees on the Inc. 5000 list.

“We’re proud of this ranking because it shows that running an ethical business and taking care of your employees is a sustainable strategy. We’re excited about the growth because it continues to provide opportunities for our employee-owners here at Highlight,” said Adam McNair, Highlight President and COO.

“We are thrilled to be named to the Inc. 5000 list for the first time. It’s an honor to be listed among so many other entrepreneurial companies, and we congratulate all our fellow honorees,” said Rebecca Andino, Highlight CEO.

Not only have the companies on the 2021 Inc. 5000 been very competitive within their markets, but this year’s list also proved especially resilient and flexible given 2020’s unprecedented challenges. Among the 5000, the average median three-year growth rate soared to 543 percent, and median revenue reached $11.1 million. Together, those companies added more than 610,000 jobs over the past three years.

Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000. The top 500 companies are featured in the September issue of Inc., which will be available on newsstands on August 17.

“The 2021 Inc. 5000 list feels like one of the most important rosters of companies ever compiled,” says Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc. “Building one of the fastest-growing companies in America in any year is a remarkable achievement. Building one in the crisis we’ve lived through is just plain amazing. This kind of accomplishment comes with hard work, smart pivots, great leadership, and the help of a whole lot of people.”


About Highlight

Highlight is an award-winning, ISO® 9001, ISO 20000, ISO 27001, ISO 44001, ISO 56002‑certified, CMMI-DEV Level 3‑, and CMMI-SVC Level 3‑appraised, an employee-owned federal government contractor that provides critical services to more than twenty U.S. federal government customers. Using our HI-WAY™™ best-practices framework, we design and deliver solutions that integrate current systems and procedures, address the concerns of all stakeholders, and seamlessly advance the missions of our customers. With over 10 years of federal contracting experience, we apply our proven transformation and evolution process to deliver quality services that balance agility, continuity, security, and compliance. To learn more, visit www.highlighttech.com.

More about Inc. and the Inc. 5000


Companies on the 2021 Inc. 5000 are ranked according to percentage revenue growth from 2017 to 2020. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2017. They must be U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2020. (Since then, some on the list may have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2017 is $100,000; the minimum for 2020 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Growth rates used to determine company rankings were calculated to three decimal places. There was one tie on this year’s Inc. 5000.  Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.

About Inc. Media

The world’s most trusted business-media brand, Inc. offers entrepreneurs the knowledge, tools, connections, and community to build great companies. Its award-winning multiplatform content reaches more than 50 million people each month across a variety of channels including web sites, newsletters, social media, podcasts, and print. Its prestigious Inc. 5000 list, produced every year since 1982, analyzes company data to recognize the fastest-growing privately held businesses in the United States. The global recognition that comes with inclusion in the 5000 gives the founders of the best businesses an opportunity to engage with an exclusive community of their peers, and the credibility that helps them drive sales and recruit talent. The associated Inc. 5000 Vision Conference is part of a highly acclaimed portfolio of bespoke events produced by Inc. For more information, visit www.inc.com.

For more information on the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference, visit http://conference.inc.com/.

For all media inquiries email marketing@highlighttech.com.

UI and UX: Two Designs, One Goal

More and more across the federal space, we are seeing the investment in UI/UX expertise and the implementation in software and website development projects. UI/UX encompasses critical visual and functional design elements within development that caters to its users.

We often hear the terms UI and UX design used synonymously. Most times, they are referred to in a single term altogether: UI/UX design. However, even though UI and UX coincide, they have different definitions and functions.

UI stands for User Interface.

UX stands for User Experience.

UI and UX work together to meet user-experience goals and deliver enhanced products. Interaction is the star term for both UI and UX goals. A team’s understanding of the key responsibilities to UI and UX is conducive to delivering top quality products.


What differentiates UI from UX?

  1. UI Design

UI designers are focused on the graphical layout of a website or app— in other words, the interface. You can remember interface because it is the figurative “face” of the application. So, UI is responsible for the mood and aesthetic of the digital experience, including color, shapes, lines, and fonts used.

Questions UI designers should be answering:

  • Is the app visually stimulating?
  • Does the theme make sense, considering the purpose of the app?
  • If it is part of a larger enterprise, do the visuals seem on-brand?

UI designers are assured graphic designers. Their priorities lie with the look of the elements that are being interacted with. Their role is to ensure the design aligns with brand guidelines, elevates the user experience, meets any 508 compliance visual elements, and is designed to reflect the functionality. When UI design is successful, organizations can count on higher user engagement, organic referrals, and an enhanced experience for every user.

  1. UX Design

UX design is all about understanding your users to develop the experience. UX designers are focused on how users interact and achieve their goals within the application or website. It can be easy to overlook the convolution that apps have, or sometimes it’s the over-simplification that can complicate usage. UX designers are also concerned with interface, but their main role is to create the optimal operation and experience for users.

Questions UX designers should be answering:

  • What is the functionality of the interface elements?
  • Is navigation logical and smooth?
  • Are users accomplishing what they need to accomplish?

UX is central to constructing digital experiences with strong navigation, meeting user needs in terms of 508 compliance, language preferences, accessibility, and more. The goal for UX team members is to ensure the efficiency and satisfaction of users when completing tasks.

The overall experience will be measured by how smooth (UX) interaction pairs with the user interface components that were created (UI) to develop the optimal product for users to complete their goals within an application or website.


Harmonic Efforts

Because of this, the design teams tend to work closely together; UI is concerned with how elements are appearing on the user’s device, while UX is thinking about formulaic flow.

Successful development comes from a lot of research, testing, and analysis as feedback is necessary for both UI and UX in the development process. Since UI and UX designers are looking for different kinds of feedback, real users can provide details on what works well and what needs to be modified. Constant collaboration will determine when the app or website is ready.


Together, UI and UX designers can create web and app designs that are captivating and practical, which are two great values that users look for when it comes to program interaction. Though separate in their functions, UI and UX design is necessary for optimal digital experiences.