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Four takeaways from NAHDO 2018


This October, my colleagues and I attended the National Association of Health Data Organizations (NAHDO) annual meeting in Park City, Utah. NAHDO is a national non-profit membership and educational association dedicated to improving healthcare data collection and use. NAHDO is also a co-founder and member of the All-Payer Claims Database (APCD) Council, which provides leadership and technical assistance to states implementing APCDs. For more on the history of NAHDO, click here.

This year’s conference centered on balancing transparency, privacy, and quality in an age of enhanced reporting on public health information. As a follow-up to the annual meeting, I wanted to share with you some of the key takeaways:

  1. Stakeholder engagement is key to achieving increased data transparency. As state agencies, hospitals, researchers, and other health data representatives embark on data transparency-related initiatives, representatives from Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, and Washington made clear the importance of having the right stakeholders involved from the start. To NAHDO attendees these stakeholders include attorneys, providers, members, state agency representatives, legislators, payers, and others with the subject matter expertise and experience to integrate and publicly share health information data.
  2. Collaboration maximizes cost transparency. Collecting cost-related information from providers, and making the information accessible to health data consumers, remains a difficult task for many organizations. Although several states have worked diligently with legislators to mandate that providers supply cost-related information to state health agencies, several other states have partnered with their member, provider, and insurance communities to form work groups that collaborate in the name of making healthcare more accessible and affordable.
  3. If you build it, they may not come. Building treasure troves of information for health data consumers is only beneficial if the consumers know the information exists, and are interested in using it. To help spread the word about new web-based platforms and/or tools, organizations across the nation are leveraging creative marketing strategies via Google AdWords and Facebook. Colleagues from Colorado’s Shop for Care, Maine’s CompareMaine, New Hampshire’s HealthCost, New York’s FAIR Health, and Washington’s HealthCareCompare shared their successes and challenges in making the public aware of critical healthcare information. In support of this takeaway, Andrea Clark, BerryDunn’s Senior Analytics Manager, joined colleagues from the Center for Improving Value in Health Care, Washington State, and FAIR Health to speak about BerryDunn’s work helping clients develop enhanced public use healthcare data products. You can read more about that here.

Rally behind “The Year of Data Quality.” During the recent Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference (MESC) in Portland, Oregon, Julie Boughn—Director of CMS’ Data and Systems Group—named 2018 “The Year of Data Quality.” NAHDO attendees, in support of this mission, highlighted that consistent nation-wide file layouts, coupled with consistent field definitions across databases, could go a long way in improving data quality in health IT solutions, such as APCDs.

In sum, the annual meeting was an excellent venue for hearing from data gurus, state health information officials, and those passionate about affecting change through health data solutions. As the conference in years past was attended mostly by APCD gurus, the stakeholder audience continues to broaden to include all those who have a hand in improving citizens’ health and well-being.

Related Professionals


Are you struggling to improve business outcomes through modifications to your software solutions? If so, then you have no doubt tried — or are trying — traditional software implementation approaches. Yet, these methods can overwhelm staff, require strong project management, and consume countless hours (and dollars).

It may be time for your organization to consider the DevOps (Development and Operations) implementation model — a software implementation approach that uses agile methodologies.

The DevOps implementation model — proven to be effective in upgrading large software solutions such as Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment — increases organizational flexibility with frequent prioritization of business problems.

An alternative approach
In contrast to traditional software implementation approaches, the DevOps implementation model features continuous collaboration by the development and operations teams in breaking down, prioritizing, and implementing solution fixes in small release packages. Positive results include improved business prioritization through collaboration, better management of the backlog of software requests, focused development staff efforts, and high-velocity implementation of each release — leading to an improved software solution.

Here are seven essential implementation steps for adopting the DevOps implementation model:

Step 1: Define your software solution’s backlog of outstanding business problems — Understanding the business problems is the first step towards solving them.

Step 2: Prioritize the business backlog using such factors as:

  • Operational impact
  • Priority and severity levels
  • Development level of effort
  • Infrastructure considerations

Step 3: Schedule regular team meetings to address the status, prioritization, and resolution of the software solution’s business backlog — keeping the team focused and coordinated increases your efficiency towards resolution.

Step 4: Group prioritized items into small work packages that you can release through the software development life cycle (SDLC) in two- to three-week efforts —helping to keep work packages in small, organized, and manageable packages.

Step 5: Cycle each release through the various stages of the SDLC, utilizing an implementation approach that is defined, documented, and approved by all key stakeholders —providing a predictable and repeatable process for simultaneous development of multiple work packages.

Step 6: Schedule work package releases for implementation to help coordination and planning activities with stakeholders prior to implementation.

Step 7: Implement and integrate the software solution into operations. Making sure stakeholders are aware of release changes is critical for the success of a release. Be sure staff are trained ahead of the release, and that changes are communicated to all appropriate audiences.

You can pair DevOps with other methodologies. This allows you to address smaller components of functionality through DevOps while leaving larger components of functionality to traditional methodologies.

Other considerations:

  • Once you resolve the business problem, monitor the solution to make sure the release did not negatively impact other areas of your software solution.
  • Ensure the software solution is supported by management plans (e.g., change, configuration, and issue management plans) that are thorough and approved by the key stakeholders. This will help ensure expectations of processes and procedures are agreed upon.
  • Maintain the list of business problems in a location accessible to all key stakeholders for awareness, accessibility, and accountability purposes.
  • Communicate, report, and manage the status, definition, and/or resolution of issues and/or defects in a consistent, concise, and clear manner to assist in efficiently prioritizing and addressing your business problems.
  • Begin communicating the impact of the issue and/or defect as soon as possible–the sooner the issue and/or defect is known; the quicker the team can begin down the path towards resolution.
  • Develop materials to train affected staff. Clear and concise training materials will help educate and communicate updated processes to stakeholders.

Improving your software solution
Finding a way to improve your software solution does not always mean using traditional software implementation approaches. Based on our experience, we’ve learned that collaboration between the development and operations teams, and continuously repeating the seven steps of the DevOps implementation model, allows organizations to efficiently address software solution problems.

Interested in learning more about how the DevOps implementation model could work for your organization? Please contact Zachary Rioux.

DevOps: Advance software solutions and improve outcomes