How analytics improves grants management

The Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration distributes $9 billion each year in grants to improve the quality of health care services.  Employees use the HRSA Electronic Handbooks  (EHB) system to track every facet of the grants management process, from applications to site visits and closeout.

With more than 90 programs to monitor, agency officials realized they could do a better job tracking the grantees. One improvement is using data analytics to assign each of the grantees a risk level that determines how much oversight the agency must provide.

“After grantees apply, our executors conduct reviews through the EHB system and pick the grantees based on criteria,” Satish Gorrela, HRSA's chief of architecture and delivery, told GCN at the Feb. 23 Tableau Government Summit.  “Based on the information on high-risk grantees, we can see whether it makes sense to deploy our funds to other sources.”

Gorrela’s team uses Tableau dashboards that help inform different components of the process. Initial efforts have focused on adding descriptive analytics from the EHBs into the internal Tableau dashboard so agency leadership can get a better idea of how grants are awarded.

HRSA is also using the dashboards for visualizations of different programs and plans to use predictive analytics to guide the review process.

“We are going to be integrating our statistical model with the enterprise system and Tableau, so the statistical models could be generated and automated,” Gorrela said.  “Through that work, we can build some projections into our budget projects in terms of the number of site visits needed and effectiveness and efficiency of programs.”

Gorrela said he initially encountered some resistance from employees who were skeptical of how the data analytics tool could improve their jobs. But after learning how to generate reports, about 40 percent of HRSA’s workforce is using Tableau to create dashboards and reports.

Although HRSA is using a version of Tableau that is not compliant with Section 508 accessibility standards,  Gorrela said his team has worked with the company to architect application programming interfaces that allow visually impaired users to gain access to the data in a table form.

“We conducted a pilot to see how we could still serve internal users without losing the visual components,”  Gorrela said.  “Once Tableau is 508 compliant, we can make our external reports availably publicly through their dashboards on our website.”

Editor's note: This article was changed March 1 to correct the name of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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