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Moving electronic data seamlessly between different facilities –
each having unique ways of classifying their information
In our last installment, we reviewed how Trinity Technology Group, Inc. (TrinityTG) is overseeing the development of an interoperability solution at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) designed to integrate health care data with the agency’s Offender Management System. The solution will move electronic health care information seamlessly between disparate health care facilities or different health care provider groups that may have unique ways of classifying specific ailments and/or other medical conditions.
TrinityTG is developing a similar system at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), a state agency that manages pension and health benefits for more than 1.9 million California public employees, retirees, and their families. In fiscal year 2016-17 CalPERS paid to those beneficiaries over $21.4 billion in retirement benefits and over $8.9 billion in health benefits.
To maintain its coverage responsibilities, and continue its stature as the largest defined-benefit public pension in the U.S., CalPERS relies on the strategic investment of its $360 billion in assets. The returns are realized from various private and public equity programs as well as real estate ventures all of which are transmitting investment data to CalPERS offices.
All this information, however, is gathered and inserted into spreadsheets manually. Disparate data sources may include similar people using different user names requiring time consuming research to ensure accuracy. Plus computing the business costs of the investments is done manually and can cause validation errors.
These hurdles result in the delayed generation of important investment reports sometimes by three to four weeks. This makes it difficult for portfolio and fund managers to remain agile with their investment strategies and for the assets of CalPERS to remain robust.
While the agency is quickly updating its IT solutions, it still needed assistance in its Investments Cost Management area. It sought a collaborative effort between its IT Business Intelligence (BI) team, its Investments Cost Management team, and a vendor who understood the agency’s business problems and had the expertise to automate the process.
TrinityTG had two goals in completing this cost management project.
First was to assist CalPERS in its ability to view the incoming data from its various accounts payable and general ledger spreadsheets so the agency could compute the information and determine if its investments, minus the expenses incurred, were worthwhile.
Second was to reduce the time to complete the required validations and the subsequent structure of a final report. The timeline sat at 21+ days. The objective was a finished product in less than a day, which would help the agency more quickly determine how it can improve its rate of returns on its investments.
CalPERS has been using a manual system of inputting data using a limited number of people with knowledge of its function. The agency desired the increased speed of an automated system, one with fewer, if any, errors and allowing users to see an end product within hours instead of weeks. This would allow the data itself to become valuable because the information can be evaluated in much less time.
Tackling this job requires unique skill sets; understanding the agency’s current technology; understanding integration technology development; comprehending the agency’s data, which comes from various sources including Excel spreadsheets, internal finance tools, and cloud services: being adept on interoperability, or the capability of connecting various technologies so programs can interact; and expertise in transferring and storing data and then automating it.
These criteria require knowing programming language, database knowledge and the ability to use the Oracle Data Integrator tool (ODI), the Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition tool (OBEE) and the Oracle SQL Development tool. TrinityTG staff has this experience and an understanding of Business Intelligence (BI) where the automation of loading data, and creating data that offers acumen, is the norm.
Two facets in completing this project were included – data integration and data engineering.
Data integration involves automating the collection of the data, transforming it, and preparing it within a data warehouse so the user validation tools can view the reports and run analytics on the investment expenditures of each portfolio. Data engineering involves quickly delivering ad hoc, or custom, reports. This allows business users immediate access to data so queries about the information, their consolidation, or the production of new spreadsheets can be accomplished rapidly.
Another issue requiring focus is that the management of investment portfolios often includes several people, all of whom will likely have different computer user names. Plus, these various people may have different nomenclatures for activities in other departments, their individual expense reports, and possibly other endeavors directly related to the investment portfolios.
Using a manual process to connect all these synonyms is a laborious, but necessary, exercise. In the new automated program, a “name-matching” component has been included. Tying one individual to a bevy of documents will now be automatic. And an enhanced security feature has also been established. These new controls will allow users to review the reports in a safe environment and only allow authorized personnel to have access to the data.
TrinityTG also supports this technology to transport Medi-Cal claims adjudications within California. This system is based on Microsoft technologies and relies on the X12 standard for claims messaging. Approximately 3 billion dollars a month are transported between the State of California and its health providers.