The best way for government managers to start making better decisions and move forward with a clear view of the future is to collect, integrate, aggregate, and organize data across systems and silos. Importantly, government entities need to move beyond just thinking about systems changes and technical considerations. They need to embrace a new data culture, one that uses data to drive decisions.
It is hard data — not simply a “vision” — that should shape the future of government agencies by helping them better understand their operations, programs, and performance. Analyzing data can help agencies avoid pitfalls and capitalize on opportunities. Several federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Census Bureau, are sharing data across departments, as is the State of Michigan — we know it can be done very successfully. A major step forward in breaking down data barriers in the health and human services arena is an attempt to take a person-centric view of those services. There is a need for a more holistic view from the perspective of the beneficiary. The individual does not live in a silo — he or she may be on Medicaid but may also be getting a food subsidy. Understanding each individual scenario helps ensure that the care can be maximized for every health care dollar.
A person-centered approach, combined with the sharing and integration of the business intelligence capabilities of a data warehouse, can help governments in many ways, from population health management programs and provider network management, to practice variation measurement and comprehensive program integrity. Optum’s data-driven approach to health program management has yielded notable results for Optum clients. There is a huge potential to dramatically improve chronic disease management, fraud detection, and more when you can look at trends associated with a particular condition, understand treatment patterns across a population, and uncover inappropriate billing practices. The data is available today. However, it needs to be organized, integrated, and transformed into relevant analytic units, such as episodes of care, to enable program managers to use it effectively to support decision making.
Government health care agencies also need to recognize that big data benefits not just Medicaid or one specific program. Bringing together data about a person from across all health and human service agencies will enable program managers in each agency to better understand gaps and overlaps, and ultimately provide program beneficiaries with a better, more coordinated, and more complete set of services across the spectrum. Applying sophisticated analytics at the individual and population levels along with deep health care expertise against a comprehensive “big data” warehouse consisting of data from claims, encounters, clinical charts, and many other potential sources is the engine that drives many of the new models of care delivery being pursued today, including accountable care organizations and medical homes.
Taking full advantage of the huge quantities of data currently being amassed is an important strategy state and federal agencies can deploy, but it must be done in a way that transforms the vast supply of available data into usable, relevant information.
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