Legislation Makes Data-Driven Decision-Making Part of Indiana’s Cultural Governance Fabric

New legislation is doing more than outlining the guidelines for state agency data sharing; it’s also strengthening the culture that comes with it.

by / July 28, 2017
Indiana Capitol in Indianapolis Flickr/thekirbster

Indiana is no stranger to using data to the benefit of its citizens and agencies. The state’s Management and Performance Hub (MPH) has been an integral part of state operations since 2014, but now, freshly signed legislation is reinforcing the idea that data-driven decisions are a part of the state’s cultural governance fabric.

House Bill 1470, signed May 2, reads like many other pieces of legislation aimed at improving data sharing and security among agencies, but state Chief Data Officer Darshan Shah explained that the deeper meaning of the new law is found in its codification of the data practices on a statewide level.

In addition to cementing the groundwork for data-sharing practices and security guidelines, the law also sets up some of the finer details around data sharing and use, like operational and procedural audits.   

“I would say it's really more from the standpoint of being able to solidify this in state law. By codifying it, we're able to ensure that this becomes a part of the fabric, part of the culture of the state of Indiana going forward. It makes it just that much more solidified,” he said.

In a state and national landscape that is arguably more politically divided than ever, HB 1470 stood as a testament to bipartisanship. Shah has called the law “politically agnostic.”

The root of the legislation’s success — and its future as a mainstay of data sharing and cooperation — is linked, as Shah sees it, to an understanding that the smarter decision-making is vital to better-quality services. According to Shah, leadership at both the executive and legislative level understand that fact.

“The landscape that we have is one that, I believe, is probably one of the best landscapes that you could probably work at, from the data standpoint. We have a governor and a governor's office who is extremely supportive, we have a legislature that's very supportive.”

Though the act is not really the catalyst of the MPH’s efforts, Shah predicts it will be useful as far as future undertakings are concerned. 

Where it comes to the rubber meeting the road, MPH has been continuing its partnerships with other state agencies. One of the major initiatives currently underway is between MPH and the Drug Prevention and Enforcement Task Force around the opioid drug epidemic. 

By leveraging data from 16 different agencies, MPH is unlocking data in new ways and sharing the larger story back to the partners in hopes of stemming the tides of the state’s opioid problem.

“I think it's fair to say that each of the agencies would have a portion of this story. But MPH is able to bring this group together via a data working group, in order to be able to pull all this information together in one place, and then be able to get it back in their hands in a cohesive, collective manner, in order for them to derive better decisions,” Shah explained.

Another data-rich undertaking is pointed toward optimizing the state’s Medicaid system. With the right data in the right hands, Shah said agencies like the Family and Social Services Agency can drill down into a more complete story and funnel resources to where they really need to be.

“The goal here is to be able to get this in the hands of folks who can actually move the dial on population health challenges across the state, and also get it out to just specific individuals who obviously can match up within the health-care community, can move it forward,” he said.

The data project will ultimately tie into a regional conference and “connect-a-thon” geared toward health information professionals. Shah and his team are hoping to be able to unlock the data by that October date to crowdsource new solutions around the Medicaid data.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.