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How Better State Data Shaped Indiana’s Response to the Pandemic

The Indiana Management Performance Hub has played a key role in the state’s data-driven pandemic response strategy, as well as helping the state center data in its overall approach to governing.

The Indiana Management Performance Hub (MPH) played an instrumental part in preparing the state to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, making data a central part of its approach to governing through the crisis.

While data-driven approaches and digital strategies have become more prominent during the pandemic, states like Indiana have used a data-driven approach for years in addressing public health issues like the opioid epidemic.

The state was recently recognized as a leading example of data use in an analysis titled the 2021 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence from Results for America, underlining the MPH's role.

MPH has been a standalone agency since July 2017 with the mission of supporting both state agencies and external partners through data-driven decision-making.

Since that time, MPH Chief of Staff Ashley Hungate says the focus has been building relationships with other state agencies, the research community and the nonprofit community.

Having this structure and these relationships in place allowed the agency to hit the ground running when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. Within one week, MPH transitioned employees to work in a fully remote capacity.

In addition, the state deployed an Enhanced Research Environment (ERE) in March 2020, which Hungate described as a “sandbox” that allowed staff to work on projects together in a secure space. Essentially, it is a virtual environment that allows people to analyze sensitive data, a critical part of empowering the state’s data-driven COVID-19 response.

Jeff Mullins, MPH interim communications director, said that the timing of the ERE was a big part of positioning the state for success as the shift to remote work occurred. While he said it was a project that had been in the testing and staging process for a while, its purpose was evident when the pandemic hit.

“What has been really interesting to see is how people have become so invested in following that data on a daily basis,” Hungate said.

Another key component in the state’s strategy during this shift was the launch of a data proficiency program. Essentially a “Data 101” informative resource, Hungate said, this program is available for all state employees to understand the connection between their job and data.

The curriculum includes video and written information as well as a badge program. After completing six lessons and passing a quiz, employees receive a data proficiency badge that can be displayed on LinkedIn and in their personnel file.

Mullins, who implemented the badge program, said that over 1,000 employees have earned the first badge.

Hungate noted that more advanced curriculum will be added in the future to focus on specific MPH products like the ERE.

The MPH has also used data to help combat other public health issues in the state, such as the opioid epidemic. The Next Level Recovery website is an example of these efforts, offering several dashboards to show data on things like deaths, arrests and reported Naloxone administrations.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.