Health IT Thought Leader Highlight: Adnan Ahmed, CNSI

Adnan Ahmed
Adnan Ahmed

Adnan Ahmed is co-founder and president of CNSI. He is responsible for the overall health of the company and leads CNSI’s management with an emphasis on identifying new strategic markets and leveraging relationships with customers and partners. Under Ahmed’s direction, CNSI has experienced extensive growth in the healthcare and federal markets. Ahmed is credited for CNSI’s expansion into several new verticals, including the State Medicaid and CMS Medicare markets.

Ahmed brings vast experience in federal government and strategic growth areas. Prior to founding CNSI, Ahmed started the federal product sales division for INET Inc., a government systems integrator, growing it to $30 million in three years.

Adnan Ahmed is a board member of the Tech Council of Maryland (TCM), The Organization of Pakistani American Entrepreneurs of North America and is an active supporter of The Citizens Foundation, USA (TCF-USA).

Tell me about CNSI and its relation to healthcare. What’s your footprint and what are some of the organizations you’ve worked with?

Happy to do so and thank you for the opportunity to engage in this dialogue.

CNSI delivers business transformation and business technology solutions to a diverse base of federal and state government agencies. Some of the agencies we are working with include health and human services departments for Michigan, Maryland, Utah and Washington. Within that space and working with those agencies, healthcare takes up the majority of work we are involved in today.

For every project we undertake, our mission is to deliver high-quality, innovative solutions that improve performance. In the healthcare industry, our goals around performance are twofold: we aim to introduce solutions that dramatically cut down on costs and also make for a stronger, more connected experience between the people administering and receiving healthcare services.

From your dealing in the space, what are some of the most pressing issues you’re seeing? What needs to be addressed that’s not receiving the attention it deserves? Anything overblown?

With healthcare poised to make up a fifth of our total economy by the year 2020, the industry and each individual it serves has a lot to gain from the implementation of cutting-edge, cost-saving technological solutions.

One area we’ve seen as having so far prohibited the full potential health IT has to offer has been around interoperability. A lack of industry standardization makes it difficult to share and utilize information across platforms and deters a complete capture of standardized healthcare data.

The more interoperability, the more opportunity for healthcare systems, primary care providers, specialists and patients to benefit from avoiding from duplicitous tasks and capitalizing on available information.

How have you seen your products/services transform specific areas of the industry or even entire organizations?

While we are mainly focused on producing enterprise solutions, one product I’d like to highlight as being transformative for the healthcare industry is CNSI’s eCams HealthBeat.

One of the biggest challenges agencies providing Medicaid services face is the efficient collection and interpretation of huge data sets. Working as an add-on for the Medicaid Management Information Systems (MMIS) we developed, HealthBeat – via a graphic process dashboard – provides a robust automated framework for continuous process improvement. The application helps those tasked with managing state Medicaid systems to identify and explain patterns and trends.

The information provided on that dashboard gives valuable feedback to state healthcare agencies by helping to prevent potential bottlenecks and business performance issues.

How is it specifically being used and applied in the space?

At the state and federal agency level, big data analytics are being used to help make sense of the massive amounts of health information data. eCAMS HealthBeat is a tool that facilitates this process. It is used to assist health officials to identify red flags where and when they exist and make real-time informed decisions on a variety of issues they might face. In the state of Washington, the eCAMS HealthBeat tool is now being leveraged to visualize, track and monitor the progress of Medicaid Expansion in the state of Washington. The intuitive tool provides daily updates on new expansion eligibles across the state and trends progress by county, gender and age.

What do you think has been CNSI’s biggest accomplishment in the healthcare IT field to date? Given that, where do you see the organization going in the next five years or so? Where has it come from?

One of the biggest accomplishments is getting into the MMIS space, which was an oligopoly. There were many barriers of entry, but across the nation there were legacy systems that were ready for true change. CNSI’s solution transformed the entire industry and now the industry is measured by the technology we have developed. In the world of connected enterprises, CNSI was one of the first to introduce a disruptive technology that transformed the Medicaid industry.

In terms of the next five years, we want to build upon our successes and identify gaps in the space so that we can bring new tools to the market to address issues in a very short period of time. We will continue to build our solutions in cloud, mobility and analytics. Transforming an industry takes time and we are part of that change from Medicaid and Medicare to Veteran’s and overall military health.

How has CNSI led the industry in adopting new and changing technologies in healthcare? Which technologies, specifically?

CNSI has led the way in addressing the many challenges that exist in the healthcare landscape. We were the first company to implement a web-centric MMIS back in 2005 and today we continue to lead the way in addressing the many challenges that exist in the health care landscape by being the first in the nation to embark on developing a completely automated real-time and cloud enabled MMIS.

In terms of the technology itself, cloud computing presents dramatic cost savings when compared with the traditional mainframes that require periodic and costly upgrades.

The cloud-enabled MMIS, termed Medicaid as a Service (MaaS), was originally slated for the state of Michigan as a way to transform and update their Medicaid management systems. However, when neighboring Illinois learned of the benefits associated with the cloud computing platform, they signed on as well. This joint venture is termed the Illinois Michigan Program Alliance for Core Technology (IMPACT) project.

The result of having two states share a common MMIS platform has been a great success story. Their partnership should yield exponentially greater savings since each state only pays for its share of the system, rather than having both states billed for two separate systems.

For Illinois, this cloud computing platform means an initial savings of around $10 million and $57 million over the next five years – potentially, a 40 percent overall savings. Meanwhile, Michigan will see a 20 percent reduction in operational and maintenance costs over the next five years. When all is said and done, we are talking in terms of double-digit savings percentages for the two states.

Separately, we are also really excited about our work in analytics and developing solutions for leveraging data to make more informed decisions. For instance, ClaimsSure, which we are working with the University of Maryland to develop, uses a probability analysis engine to detect instances of fraud, waste and abuse in health care claims.

Finally, I should also highlight our work utilizing mobile applications to expand consumer engagement. We recently developed the mobile health app, myHealthButton, which makes essential health information available right on your smartphone.

Where should we put our eggs, if we had a healthcare basket? Anything on the horizon that you’re counting on before it’s hatched?  

Today secure mobile and consumer engagement is where I would focus. Mobile devices are used so widely that we need to rethink how to make new platforms for receiving and sending information. Smartphones continue to benefit the patient and allow for the consumer to empower themselves and manage their own health care. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, in 2017 smartphones will amount to 68 percent of total mobile data traffic. Additionally, a Deloitte survey found that more than 65 percent of users say they would consider switching to a physician who offers access to medical records through a secure connection.

The focus on mHealth continues to expand and as patients begin to see the value in these applications, digital health technologies will continue to transform our health care system.

What are some of the major opportunities that exist for IT in advancing the field of healthcare?

That’s a great question. As I see it now, cloud technology analytics represent a key area of the health IT industry that we can expect a major shift towards in the coming years. Last year, a CDW survey found that 88 percent of healthcare entities utilizing cloud technologies reported annual savings of 20 percent on IT costs. In 2012, just 35 percent of healthcare organizations were implementing or maintaining cloud computing. As that number rises, so will the cost savings we will see across the board.

But cost savings are not the only benefit of the cloud. With cloud computing comes opportunities in cross-collaboration, which also creates a wealth of opportunities. By storing data in the cloud, information is streamlined and shared in real time, allowing for effective doctor-patient engagement and an improved end user experience.

You mentioned a partnership with the University of Maryland on a technology solution to combat healthcare claim fraud, waste and abuse. Can you tell us a little about that project, its potential and end goals?

Absolutely. Let me start by saying that we are very proud and excited about having the opportunity to work with the University of Maryland’s Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS). The students and professional staff at CHIDS are among the brightest in the industry and have provided a valuable partnership on a product that we’ve developed, called ClaimsSure.

ClaimsSure is a software solution that is used to analyze data to detect improper billing, waste and abuse and assess a healthcare claim’s risk. Using a predictive probability analysis, ClaimsSure identifies signs that something is not right with a medical claim early on in the process to prevent improper billing or other wasteful practices.

Research leaders at CHIDS are collaborating with CNSI engineers to conduct a series of technical, operational and economic assessments to explore ClaimsSure’s modeling approach and effectiveness. As part of the completion of this project, CHIDS will work with CNSI to develop a white paper that will coincide with a webinar for industry stakeholders and policymakers discussing this health IT innovation. Their research findings will be compiled for publication.

Anything else you’d like to mention that I haven’t asked about?

One particular industry aspect that I see as being very important is the push for moving from a “build to last” mentality to that of a “designed to change” mentality. What this means is that a primary focus of designing IT platforms needs to revolve around how users engage with and experience the IT solutions the industry creates. The primary question here is, “how can we create IT platforms and programs that can adapt with user experience?” As we get closer and closer to building IT platforms with their inherent evolution as top of mind, those platforms will have a much greater impact and experience more widespread success rates.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your work running Electronic Health Reporter. This blog is a valuable industry resource that brings together thought leaders from across the health IT spectrum and we appreciate the opportunity to participate in this forum. Thank you.

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