I am writing this as I fly to Lesotho, a small landlocked country in South Africa. Lesotho is a mountainous kingdom with an actual king and actual mountains where there is even skiing during the colder months. The challenge in Lesotho is that it is a low-income country where 25 percent of its 2.2 million people have HIV. As a result, it sadly has one of the largest orphan populations in the world (over 200,000 orphans). Partners In Health in Lesotho works primarily in remote health centers located in the mountains. Several of our health centers are only accessible via a small aircraft and it takes people living in the region hours of walking to get to a health facility (not fun when you are 9 months pregnant!). In these remote areas, we utilize Village Health Workers to help people with HIV, pregnant women, and/or malnourished children get the right healthcare at the right time.
"Progress towards global access to data in real-time has ignited a data evolution at Partners In Health (PIH)"
As CFO of Partners In Health (PIH), my team’s challenge is getting the right people the right data at the right time. We implemented our first global accounting system in 2008 (we were using Excel to manage most of our site budgets, some of which were $5 and $10 million annually) and have come a long way since then. Recently, we implemented a cloud-based data warehouse that has transformed our reporting capabilities. Data from each of our global sites is automatically replicated and consolidated in the data warehouse each night, enabling site-based accounting teams to run reports off of consolidated data at any time (as long as there is internet). Our latest step towards our goal of the right data at the right time has been the implementation of a global analytics tool–for us this is PowerBI. This tool, which leverages the data from our data warehouse, is also cloud-based and has become our global dashboard system. Managers in the mountains of Lesotho are able to see how their program is performing in realtime using PowerBI.
So what is next? We are working on combining, curating, predicting, and prescribing. We want to combine data across functional areas (clinical, financial, human resources, etc.), curate it so it is presented in a digestible and actionable format, predict future supply and demand, and prescribe actions to meet this supply/demand—easy-peazy!
Combining – Our data warehouse is mostly storing financial data at this time. We need to add clinical and other programmatic data. Adding is not the challenge, it is determining and creating the right data links across departments and other organizational silos. In an effort to facilitate this outside your own box thinking, we are gathering groups of cross-functional people to brainstorm potentially valuable analyses outside their own functional areas. HR is thinking about clinical data uses, finance is thinking about fundraising, etc.
Curating – The presentation of data matters. Who is your audience? What is the story? What are the actionable conclusions? This is an area of improvement for PIH—we have a lot of data but what are we doing as a result?
Predicting – The gold standard of data analytics is the ability to predict future actions. What should we be measuring/investing in today because of what we expect in the future (i.e., we expect to see X patients with cancer in Rwanda over the next 5 years).
Prescribing – Once we’ve predicted the future, we want to prescribe actions today in order to capitalize on the opportunities (i.e., as a result of the predicted increase in cancer patients, we should try to raise funding for another cancer center in Rwinkwavu).
Although we have come a long way, we know our journey is just beginning. Our progress towards global access to data in real-time has ignited a data evolution at PIH. As our team continues to make progress advancing our enterprise analytics footprint, we know we are making an actual impact in the populations we serve.