NY organization steps up its data analytics beyond report generation

BOSTON--One New York organization transformed from a business intelligence factory to a sophisticated provider of data analytics.

Chris Keaton, MS, director of information and analytical advancement for HealthNow New York, a company that provides access to quality healthcare and innovative solutions for individuals and employers, shared his experience during the Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum.

When Keaton took over the team, there were about 10 people responding to requests, churning out reports. “My goal is to get analytics in the hands of the people who need it and keep up with the speed of change. We went from a report factory to an analytics consultancy.”

That speed means his team can expose things to people pretty quickly which “scares a lot of traditional IT folks.” They want to apply governance rules and conduct quality checks and think exposure will lead to the wrong decisions. “I say if we don’t expose, we won’t be making any decisions at all.”

Keaton set up an information hub with a series of core functions for the team. He’s the first to note that business intelligence isn’t dead. “It’s stable. Focusing on analytics is broader and a more exciting title but doesn’t mean that BI is dead. We still have dashboards and score cards because people need them to do their jobs.”

Keaton also set up an analytics sandbox with prototyping capabilities which has produced innovative solutions. The team “creates the things they need and they don’t have to wait for IT.” IT then takes that asset and helps scale it.

An expert roster guides people to the right person when they need information on a certain topic. Since implementation, employee engagement scores have gone up. It’s a simple equation, he said. “People are more satisfied because they know where to go to get a question answered.”

Keaton’s team is as much a sales team as anything else, he said. “We use a SWAT team concept by partnering a business thought leader with a concierge to work through the data thicket. We don’t want to lose the idea just for the lack of available time. The co-staff SWAT team concept has been a big game changer.”

If you align in a way that supports the spectrum of analytics, you can create three key areas, he said—support for the predictable, recurring work; the ability to guide and train; and time for research and development. “I make sure at least 20 percent of my people’s time is open for R&D. By supporting that time, we become more of a think tank for analytics rather than just helping other people with their ideas.”

Keaton has used data and information governance to come to terms with clinical versus financial data. Half the team works on the data governance side in IT and the other half works on information governance with analytics. The CIO had issues with that, saying it seemed counterintuitive but data governance keeps garbage from coming in and information governance keeps garbage from coming out, he said, citing a report from AHIMA.

Keeping the data clean and of high quality and managing the rules is the job of IT. “I work on defining common calculations,” he said, citing primary care provider attribution as a good example. When they started the governance program, there were three different methodologies for attribution. All were right in their own way but they need to standardize. “It’s essential, if we’re paying people per capita, to make sure we attribute the right member to them,” said Keaton. Determining the attribution methodology and publishing a decision document was challenging, he added.

Keaton also implemented a metadata management tool/glossary to allow resources to speak the same language. Users can right-click on any data element and see its lineage all way back to the source along with any changes. That has proven to be very powerful, he said, because it has “increased quality, cut down on time and increased engagement.”

There has been much discussion about a single source of data. But, Keaton said when people book a trip, they triangulate the data to come up with the right answer for them at that given time. He likes the idea of allowing people to choose the data source that means the most to them because all are right, in a manner of speaking, but different for each person. “Multiple sources might not be a bad thing in the future.”

Looking ahead, Keaton said we’re in a search-based economy. “Your knowledge is based on access to information. There will always be a place for reports but how many questions can be answered by a quick Google search of your internal information. Just give me the ability to search it. This is where our success is going to be as an analytics group. Give people access when and where they need it.”