Cracking data’s toughest challenges Jul 06, 2015

Cracking data’s toughest challenges

An Interview with Sasha Katsaga

In a recent report, the World Bank and World Health Organization said that globally there are still 400 million people with out access to essential primary health care services.

To speak to some of the challenges of data analytics, the Joint Learning Network (JLN) interviewed expert Sasha Katsaga, who currently works with USAID’s Health Finance and Governance Project to help Ghana’s National Health Insurance Authority to improve the collection and use of data.

Sasha talks to us about some common barriers or challenges to collecting data, how countries can more effectively collect data, and which countries have been particularly successful.

Q: You’ve worked with several countries including Ghana and Moldova to diagnose specific issues with claims data collection and to develop roadmaps for improvement. In addition, you’ve also helped develop analytical products such as dashboards, and other visualization tools, to help countries make better use data and claims analytics to inform decision-making.  

Can you tell us about your background, what countries have you have worked with to help improve data collection, and what you’re working on now related to data improvement?

A: I have worked as a consultant for USAID, the World Bank and the WHO in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Belorussia, Ukraine, and Russia. Mostly I am working with the hospitals’ patient databases related to hospital payment systems development (DRG), cost-accounting studies, and Monitoring and Evaluation systems.       

Q: What are some of the most common barriers or challenges to collecting data within theses countries?

An: The different stakeholders in the health system (Ministry of Health, HIF, National Clinics, Public Health organizations, etc.) use a spectrum of local information systems that are not integrated and are lacking uniform standards. In many cases, for each specific task (reporting forms, indicators, projects, etc.) a separate software product was created that was not integrated with other modules of the information system. As a result, each of the local systems perform specific tasks at a health facility or health authority, but does not use a full range of available clinical, statistical and financial information for management decision-making at every level of the health system.

Q: Structure, format and linkability of claims data are often a barrier for data analysis. Have you worked with any countries to successfully implement changes to improve these elements? And if so, can you describe the process and outcomes?

A: One example of this is the work that has been done in Kyrgyzstan. Integrational elements were put into the IT systems on all levels of healthcare. The data was tied to a unique patient number, which allowed for complex data analysis. Also, at the implementation of the system they used standard directories from medical organizations, clinical directories, etc.

Q: What are some of the most common types of tools used to routinely monitor key performance indicators?

A: MS Access and Tableau software are the most commonly used. 

Q: What would you suggest countries not do when beginning to think about using data for effectively?

A: Begin by developing the concept and strategy and by running pilot projects instead of buying equipment and software immediately. Do not wait for the perfect system to be developed – just begin working with the information present.

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