SAIC Recognized for Contributions to Children’s Healthcare
The online tool the team helped develop matches low-income families enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) with local oral health providers.
Technology, Collaboration Helps Needy Families Find Dental Care
For families in need across the United States, getting the appropriate access to dental care is now a lot easier, thanks in part to SAIC.
In support of the Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), SAIC employees were recently recognized by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for their work to develop the “Insure Kids Now Dental Locator.” The team, which also included representatives from the federal government, was presented with the HHS Innovates Award during a ceremony earlier this year at HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The online tool the team developed matches low-income families enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) with local oral health providers.
"This was a huge honor for our team," said Barbara Gandy, the program manager for SAIC’s work with the HRSA Data Warehouse, where the project began. "It was a challenging project for everyone, but we always came back to the most important part – doing the right thing for the kids. That was the driver then and still is."
From Tragedy to New Solutions
Gandy explained that the project actually began after a horrible local tragedy, when 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, from Prince George’s County, Md., died in 2007 as a result of complications from an abscessed tooth. The infection from the tooth spread to his brain, and Deamonte died six weeks later.
The tragedy was made worse because of the bureaucracy of the situation – Deamonte’s mother, who did not have health insurance for the family, simply couldn’t find a dentist who accepted Medicaid, a problem that thousands of families face each day in America.
The local community reacted strongly to Deamonte’s death, and after significant media attention, Congress took action to ensure that information about dental health providers who participated in Medicaid or CHIP was available and accessible.
Keith Adams, the original manager on the project and an SAIC systems analyst, explained that the idea for the Insure Kids Now web site began “very organically” by a number of people working at HRSA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
"We were sitting in an office discussing the problem, and we realized that we had the immediate capabilities to solve it," he said. "It was in our sweet spot."
Adams said everything began to come together quickly – HRSA already had the web site infrastructure, the data warehouse, and the locator technology that would identify where Medicaid and CHIP dental providers were located in each state. All the team had to do was secure the funding for the project, get the source data from various state agencies, and then start to adapt the technology.
That was in early 2009, and by July of that year, the task order was issued with a due date of Aug. 4.
Big Data, Huge Challenges
But like any project that deals with multiple data sources with no standardized format – and more than 100,000 lines of data – things got complicated fast.
Once the project began, Adams said the team had only 35 days to receive and scrub the data from 150 different sources across the country – ranging from simple text files to more sophisticated data sets. And the task became even more daunting than originally thought. It was also a massive project that required the collaboration of multiple federal and state agencies, as well as several government contractors.
Members of the SAIC team working onsite at the HRSA facility in Rockville, Md., took time for a photo to show their recent HHS Innovates Award from HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius.
"It was a big project, and these were files that included data in various formats, from every state and every Medicare or managed care program across the country," Adams said. "That was difficult, but our real innovation came with the validation of the data."
With the latest revision, however, which was released in April, the team has automated most of the process, and the information can now be uploaded through an easily accessible web site. The new system also gives state representatives full control over not just the content, but who can provide the content. "Now it's easier than filing your taxes, and we can accommodate a huge range of data sophistication" Adams said.
Adams said the system also generates a receipt and a response to the sender, and notifies CMS – the government entity that owns the process – if a particular state is delinquent with their data.
He said the data has improved from a 40 percent accuracy rate to more than 90 percent in just one year.
Next Step - Social Media and Local Communication
According to Gandy, the team is now working on improving the system even more through additional automation, and is also working on ways to make the information available at the local level – including at community hospitals and local Medicare and Medicaid offices, as well as on Facebook and other social media tools.
The goal is to make the information available in every community so that American families never go through a tragedy like the one suffered by Deamonte Driver.
"We're finding new ways to get the message out there for CMS," Gandy said. "But it has been a great program so far, and we’re very proud for being recognized with the award and to be a part of it."
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