Department of State Hospitals Building a New Data Infrastructure

By Published On: September 10, 2021

Agencies and departments across the state learned crucial lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic, in one form or another.

For the Department of State Hospitals (DSH), the pandemic underscored the need for data analytics to play a bigger part in the department’s operations.

During a Sep. 7 forum with Tech CA, DSH leaders reflected on the department’s need to shift their focus to data analytics and how they might accomplish that priority.

“We’ve got to be better at data going forward,” Chief Information Officer Andrew Hinkle said. “I want our organization to be data-centric. I want us to make decisions based on actual empirical evidence and not just a gut feeling.”

For DSH, data can serve as an invaluable way to track vaccination rates at hospitals, giving workers one single source of truth to work from.

When it comes to shifting the department’s focus from “gut feeling” to the precision of data analytics, Hinkle is opting more for retooling than rebuilding.

“I think, long-term, my application team, we start buying more software and custom-building less,” Hinkle said. “And so when we do, we don’t get rid of people, we retool those people and make them [work on] data.”

State Hospitals CTO Chad Corrin spoke at the Tech Forum on Sept. 7, 2021.

An education in analyzing data won’t happen overnight. DSH Chief Technology Officer Chad Corrin anticipates a steep learning curve, but the work is already underway.

“Data analytics is difficult,” Corrin said. “It’s hard to find people who really understand data. And so I think focusing on the training and the people aspect of that has been something that we’ve been spending a lot of time on.”

Corrin referred to “data” as a buzzword, but extracting value from data is a tough process that requires the right people and the right software.

“When it comes to advanced analytics, machine learning, AI capabilities—all of that is something that’s thrown around a lot in the industry, but actually implementing it is another challenge.”

Corrin says that using software like Snowflake, Azure Data Factory, and Tableau will streamline the process and help them take on a new data-driven approach at DHS. But even though it might stretch management past its comfort zone, data is worth embracing.

“Data was already important before this pandemic started,” Corrin said. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s going to become even more critical.”

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org