Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Healthcare

Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference 2019

Conferences, Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Healthcare, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference 2019, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Public Sector, Technology

KAI Partners was thrilled to attend the Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference (MESC) last week in Chicago. MESC is an annual event bringing together public sector and private sector Medicaid leaders and partners to discuss issues around national Medicaid programs and systems.

A primary focus at MESC is claims management by Medicaid Management Information Systems (MMIS), provider management, and benefits eligibility management.

MESC is a critical meeting point for thoughtful dialogue, workshops, and demonstrations of new technologies. Over the course of three days, the KAI Partners team participated in several informational sessions, attended workshops, and had discussions on the trade show floor with new contacts and potential partners.

The conference provided insight into the various issues confronting systems across the nation and a valuable opportunity for us to share our knowledge working with MMIS technology, data warehousing, analytics, and business intelligence.

The themes of this year’s event centered primarily around the following:

  1. Health Care Innovation
  2. Medicaid Innovation
  3. Operations and Compliance
  4. Procurement and Contracting
  5. Interoperability
  6. Data and Analytics

These themes appeared throughout MESC sessions, where topics included the role of AI, Robotic Process Automation, Program Integrity, Modularity, Data Analytics, Organizational Change Management, Modernization, Outcomes-based approach to successful Medicaid system programs, and more.

From discussions at MESC, as well as our work here in California, we know the goals are to develop Medicaid solutions that are qualitative, supported by relevant technology, and that meet the needs of those who rely on these critical medical services.

One discussion centered around outcomes and encouraged technology vendors to be more active in pushing their technology further to achieve the desired outcomes—and to not be content with checking boxes on contract requirements.

Technology vendors were encouraged to engage in greater depth in understanding the limitations of the proposed system and to work with their public sector partners to achieve results that will have a meaningful impact on the populations served.

We were very encouraged by the session themes and with our discussions during the conference—they play to our company strengths and support our goal to serve a greater segment of the Medicaid enterprise. We look forward to pursuing opportunities that provide excellence in health care consulting and helping Medicaid departments achieve the programs and member outcomes for which they strive!

Attending MESC on behalf of KAI Partners this year were:

Ryan Hatcher: Ryan Hatcher is a skilled communications and management consultant with over a decade of experience campaigning for government, public affairs, and political clients. Ryan serves as an executive consultant providing communications support to one of California’s heath care agencies. He resides in Sacramento with his wife, Nikki, and their two dogs; in his spare time, Ryan enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and tinkering/building things in his garage.

Alexis Kalman: A graduate from UC Davis, Alexis spent over 10 years working with State Medicaid and other health and human service departments to develop, implement, and operate analytic warehouses and decision support systems. In her current role with KAI Partners, Alexis works as a technical project manager for a statewide education agency. Alexis is a board member at the YMCA of Superior California representing the Yolo YMCA. She also participates in both Boy and Girl Scouts with both of her children.

Lucie-Anne Radimsky: Lucie-Anne has over 15 years’ experience in communications and business development in the U.S. and Europe. She has represented clients within the technology, energy, and telecommunications sectors to government agencies, press, and industry analysts throughout the world. Lucie-Anne is an active community volunteer and has served on numerous non-profit boards and led alumni groups in Paris, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. She resides in Sacramento with her Brazilian husband and two boys.

Using Data and Semantics to Improve Public Sector Services

Continuous Improvement, Data Management, Data Science, Government, Healthcare, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology

An Interview with Dr. Josh Morgan of SAS


We recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Josh Morgan, National Director of Behavioral Health and Whole Person Care at software developer SAS, speak at the SAS Institute Inc.’s SAS California Users Forum.

Dr. Morgan spoke about how important semantics and data are to solving complex issues in the areas of health care, homelessness, corrections, the environment, and more.

We were particularly taken with Dr. Morgan’s insights on how we define things can determine how we review and analyze them. He emphasized that the way we speak about a problem influences how we look at it and address it. (Spoiler: Below, Dr. Morgan shares a great story about how changing semantics in a public outreach and engagement program led to improvements to the public agency’s services.)

After hearing Dr. Morgan speak, we wanted to learn more about the work he does and his passion for improving whole person care and for helping solve complex issues. Today we’re thrilled to share this interview with Dr. Josh Morgan!

KAI Partners, Inc.: What is your profession/day-to-day work?

Dr. Morgan: I’m a licensed psychologist currently working as the National Director of Behavioral Health and Whole Person Care at SAS. I provide consultation to agencies on how to identify a more complete, accurate picture of community need as well as the impact of services, ideally from a more holistic perspective.

KAIP: How did you get into this field?

Dr. Morgan: I was planning to become a film director originally, but wanted to more directly help people, so I pursued psychology (after exploring multiple other fields). My doctoral program emphasized strengths-based, person-centered work that also acknowledged the role of systems and structures in our lives (versus an individual in isolation). But when I started working full-time in the field, I got frustrated by all the things we weren’t allowed to do because it’s not a covered benefit or not in policy. Our health world is focused very much on reducing symptoms and just on the individual. I made the move into the analytics/evaluation side as a way to use data to advocate for better services, systems, structures, and policies.

KAIP: What is your favorite part about your work and why?

Dr. Morgan: There are two parts. The core meaning of my work is in helping advocate for more whole person care across the country. On a more practical level, I love getting to see the creativity of people around the country in doing so much with so little and finding answers to complex questions despite barriers. I really have fun being presented with policy and evaluation questions and figuring out ways to answer them and even enhance them with more complete, accurate information.

KAIP: Why do you do what you do/what inspires you?

Dr. Morgan: Making a difference in our policies, systems, and structures so more people get the care they need in a holistic way.

KAIP: How does data and semantics inform your work and how you approach problems?

Dr. Morgan: My dissertation was qualitative (on exemplar Muslim and Christian interfaith peacemakers), so I’ve long been a skeptic of quantitative data’s ability to represent human experiences and true outcomes. However, I’ve increasingly recognized we live in a quantitative world, and discrete numbers are really helpful for telling a story of broad impact. It’s easy to complain about the metrics we currently have, but I decided it was better to get a seat at the table and influence the metrics to push for more whole person, strengths-based indicators and data rather than just have it all imposed upon me.

This is core to a lot of my work, finding ways to be creative in meeting required, symptom-focused metrics while contributing more contextual information to tell a more complete, accurate story. I had a great team when I was the Chief of Behavioral Health Informatics at the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, and we found ways of even using claims data to get a more complete story!

In that role, I got to present at the SAS Analytics Experience conference and discovered text analytics and natural language processing. I talked the ear off the product manager because it brought me back to my grad school days with my dissertation and some computation linguistics work we did. Advances in technology are helping unlock narrative and qualitative data which, especially in behavioral health, is so rich and gives an opportunity to give an even more whole person perspective.

We can explore more robust mixed-methods designs by leveraging technology to present both quantitative and qualitative data. That’s truly more whole person analytics!

KAIP: Can you explain the intersection of data and semantics in the public sector, and why it matters?

Dr. Morgan: First, we need to remember that data is a very inclusive term. People usually think about structured, quantitative information when they hear the word data, but all information is data. This interview is data. Semantics usually refers to narratives, language, and other qualitative data. As my dissertation was qualitative, I deeply value and appreciate the richness that can be found in semantics. There’s human nuance that just cannot be captured in a quantitative way. Further, when we talk about things like health equity and civic engagement in the public sector, the voice of the consumer, the citizen, the patient, etc., is of paramount importance. Wouldn’t it be great to literally gain insights from the voices our public agencies serve?

The public sector is also unique in that it is the only institution that is truly responsible for all lives and making our communities better holistically. All other private entities have sub-segments, geographies, or populations.

Public agencies cross all industries. Therefore, there is a unique ability to gain a true whole person view into the community that no other institution can really gain.

In this way, though, I believe public agencies have a responsibility to get as complete a view as possible, meaning both quantitative and qualitative data.

KAIP: Can you give an example of using data and semantics to create policy and drive change in the public sector?

Dr. Morgan: When I was with the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, we developed a program to conduct outreach and engagement with “resistant, non-compliant” people. One of our evaluation metrics was pretty basic, looking at counts of outpatient utilization pre and post engagement. The first time my team ran the numbers, we showed dozens of visits in the year before engagement. But these were supposed to be those who weren’t in treatment because they were called “resistant and non-compliant.” Digging into the data a little more, we found the nature of the services was overwhelmingly crisis visits and assessments (often multiple assessments with different providers). People who are repeatedly seeking assessments and even crisis visits within a 12-month period are really hard to classify as “resistant.”

This started a conversation internally about whether our language in describing people was accurate in the first place. Then we were able to gain more context from the stories of the consumers served and the care coordination staff who engaged with these folks and even went to appointments with the consumers. Plus, we had focus groups and other narrative stories.

These stories (i.e., semantic data) gave context and insight into the quantitative data we saw, shedding light on the ways our system can be challenging to engage with. It started changing our semantics in describing people in need. No longer did we see these folks as “resistant and non-complaint,” but rather desiring help and facing legitimate barriers to care. That also led to quality improvement policy work to change our system to be more accessible. These insights are also helpful in larger policy conversations about how to engage the harder to reach, high utilization, and expensive populations. It may not be that the consumers need to change as much as the systems aimed to help them need to change.

KAIP: What questions should we ask ourselves to make sure we approach/analyze data in the right way?

Dr. Morgan: Who are we not including in the data? Who are we not including in the interpretation process? In the many conversations around biased algorithms and AI ethics, there’s increasing recognition that we can unintentionally have biased data and results by the absence of some populations. We may not be able to include everyone but attempting to do so is a start. It is critical that we are very clear and intentional about who is included and not included and that we are sure to avoid generalizing results to excluded populations.

What questions am I not asking? Too often I find agencies, especially in the public sector and health, not asking questions because we don’t know how to find the answer. Often this is because of a lack of data or a lack of a data platform to truly unlock insights.

I think people have more helpful data than they realize. There are ways to be creative in answering questions.

It may not be perfect, but proxies can be really helpful in getting at certain ideas. Just because you may not have a perfect methodology or result doesn’t mean you can’t do something to start getting at the information. You can caveat any results so they are not over-interpreted, but starting to explore the questions we stop asking helps get us to more whole person perspectives.

KAIP: How should data be used to inform and drive decision-makers, policies, etc.? How should it not be used?

Dr. Morgan: Data should be the start of the story and conversation and not the end. Some people approach results as the end-all-be-all, but interpretation and application is key. Stakeholder engagement in this interpretation process can gain additional insights and conversations that may not have otherwise occurred if we took data at face value. Data doesn’t just inform decisions and policies; it brings us all together to build dialogue and more compassion for each other by having greater insights into context.

We also need to be careful about “perfect” methodology. A danger in a lot of policymaking and decision-maker requests for data is a default to an academic-like approach. I teach on the side and have published, so I love the academic world. However, laboratory research often doesn’t translate to the messy real-life world, especially in health and particularly in public sector health and social services. I’ve seen a lot of evaluation projects and data initiatives stall because there was any level of data quality challenges or an inability to achieve extreme rigor in statistical significance. We don’t want to dismiss rigor, of course, but when we look at trends across populations, numbers don’t have to be perfect. I use the example of suicide rates and opioid use and deaths. They’re both broadly recognized as undercounts because of the way they’re underreported. But we can still tell when there’s a problem or a trend in a good or a bad direction. Don’t wait for data perfection to start using the data and even starting policy conversations!

Thank you, Dr. Morgan, for your fascinating insights on using data to public policy and public services. Now, for a little fun and games…

KAIP: What was the last show you binge-watched or what is your favorite podcast?

Dr. Morgan: Star Trek Discovery. I grew up on The Next Generation and wore a Star Trek uniform for my fourth-grade school picture, so I’m a long-time Trekker. I watched this series and then thought after Season 2 that my wife would like it, so we just binged both seasons in time for San Diego Comic Con! 🖖

KAIP: What are your favorite productivity or life tips/hacks?

Dr. Morgan: Mindfulness. I was exposed to this more deeply in my clinical work during an intensive training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) when I led a program for adolescent self-injury. As I’ve done intro trainings on mindfulness and DBT, I’ve shared many of the mindfulness principles that have been more helpful in my personal life than in my clinical work!

One example is the principle of effectiveness. I can get stuck in considering what’s right or wrong and delay decisions. When I frame things in terms of effectiveness, it helps reconsider what the long-term goals of the work are and what will practically get us/me there. When I remember to be mindful in this way, I can get unstuck pretty quickly.

KAIP: What are your favorite digital tools/apps?

Dr. Morgan: I travel a lot, so I love my headphones. To the point of mindfulness above, I’ve enjoyed the 10% Happier app as a way to dive deeper into meditation approaches and principles in a scientific way. I also just started subscribing to Calm. It includes a lot of music tracks that are great for flights or even just focusing (or relaxing for sleep). The free chair massages in some airports are a great way to spend some layovers!

Pocket is a great app to collect articles I don’t want to read immediately and then read (often on a plane). I use Evernote for a variety of personal notes and OneNote for my work notes, especially since it synchronizes across my devices. I have an electronic notepad that I can easily take photos of in OneNote and have them on my desktop later.

I also rely on the Associated Press app for news alerts and catching up on the day’s happenings. Although reading the news in bed isn’t the best way to mindfully prepare for sleep…

KAIP: What is your favorite professional book and why?

Dr. Morgan: Tribal Leadership was a book I was exposed to during a leadership course. Its principles have stuck with me, as it talks about corporate and personal culture and values in a new way that can help identify congruency with your own values and challenge where you and your company are. It helps reshape ideas about competition. In the highest stage of development, we’re not focused on “winning” over someone else (meaning they lose), but rather, we’re going to compete with major human problems, like poverty, cancer, homelessness, etc. Winning isn’t about another company, but about moving our world forward. This book helped me evaluate SAS as an employer and was a reason I took a job with SAS—the whole Data for Good initiative is focused on these higher ideals, and we are actually able to make a difference in our world across industries!

KAI Partners is committed to helping find solutions and improvements in our community—we know this is imperative to achieving a stronger, more resilient Sacramento—and we are excited that Dr. Morgan shares this passion with us!

About Dr. Josh Morgan: As SAS’ National Director of Behavioral Health and Whole Person Care, Dr. Josh Morgan helps health agencies use data and analytics to support a person-centered approach to improving health outcomes. A licensed psychologist, Dr. Morgan was previously San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health’s Chief of Behavioral Health Informatics. His clinical work includes adolescent self-injury, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs, psychiatric inpatient units and university counseling centers. Dr. Morgan earned his Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Family Psychology from Azusa Pacific University and is trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Bonus reading: Here are a few articles by Dr. Morgan that we found compelling:

Improving the User Experience with Product Management

Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Continuous Improvement, Healthcare, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Process Improvement, Product Management, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology, Waterfall

By Jamie Spagner, PMP, CSM, CSPO

As a PMP, I have nearly a decade of traditional project management experience. I’ve worked on several projects and helped implement solutions into production using the standard waterfall methodology. With a very scripted plan, traditional projects have pre-defined scope and a definitive end.

Something I’ve recently started to work on is Product Management. In my current role, I am helping to plan the modernization efforts for a legacy system in the health care industry. The idea of Product Management is a relatively new concept for the public sector—it shifts the traditional way of thinking and is less prescriptive and more flexible.

You may be wondering how Product Management works, so I wanted to share my thoughts on Product Management in general, as well as some of its challenges.

  1. Product Management doesn’t stop. Product Management is customer-driven by nature—there is no fixed schedule or end date by which to release a product or system. Features are continuously added or tweaked to make the system or product function better for the end-user.
  2. Product Management is centered around the Agile approach. (Also true of some traditional projects.) Teams are self-motivated to determine how and when they’ll do the work. Product Management is not done in a vacuum—the development of the product is still structured using typical scrum tools like daily stand-ups and sprint planning.
  3. Product Management is not perfect. As with any new way of doing things, implementing a Product Management approach is not without its challenges. The idea of a product never being truly “finished”—because the product is continually improved to make sure it meets and exceeds customer needs—can be a tough concept.
  4. Product Management requires buy-in. Product Management often requires a culture change, as well. Coaching of executives and leadership is common—instead of directing their team, leaders should empower their teams to self-organize.
  5. Reporting Product Management’s progress. Another challenge of Product Management is reporting and being able to show progress against a plan. Since these are inherently waterfall tasks, there is a challenge in how to measure and show progress with a continuous process like Product Management. I believe using the tools of Agile can help in reporting and measurement. Developing a product roadmap, building a backlog, holding daily standup meetings, and overall accountability—you should trust in the agile process to develop and improve a great product.

Product Management is starting to be used more widely in public sector technology and innovation endeavors because it focuses on the people, processes, and technology. Product Management is a team effort to make sure a product thrives and meets the needs of the end-user community it supports.

Have you used a Product Management approach before? How is it working for you? Leave a comment and let us know!

About Jamie: Jamie Spagner is an Executive Consultant for KAI Partners, where she works as a Project Manager for a public sector health care client. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with the Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies/Public Relations. She is a loving mother of a teenage son named Wyatt. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, spending time with family/close friends, and working out.

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The Senior Project Manager

Government, Healthcare, Innovation in the Public Sector, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Training

There are many paths to success and while not everyone takes the same path, we often manage to arrive at the same destination. In our KAI Partners Staff Profile series, we share interviews and insight from some of our own employees here at KAI Partners. Our staff brings a diversity in education, professional, and life experience, all of which demonstrate that the traditional route is not necessarily the one that must be traveled in order to achieve success.

Today, we bring you the journey of Nick Sherrell, a Senior Project Manager who works with the Project Management Office for one of KAI Partners’ public sector health care clients.

KAI Partners, Inc.: How did you get into your line of work?

Nick: Oddly enough, it all started with me wanting to become a Physician Assistant! Part of getting into a PA program requires shadowing an acting PA and gaining hands-on experience into the nature of the work. While shadowing a PA at the Sacramento Native American Health Center (SNAHC), I ended up being offered an opportunity to work for the clinic as a Patient Care Coordinator. My experience in this role opened my eyes to the number of challenges people faced in interacting with the health care system as a whole. Many people struggle to gain access to affordable, quality health care. This role changed my career trajectory from clinical care to wanting to help be a part of impacting the system to ensure more people are able to access quality care and live healthier lives. From then on, I have worked in roles gaining more and more experience and responsibility doing work within health care systems. This ultimately led to roles in Quality, Performance Improvement, Tech Implementation, Clinical Variation Reduction, and Project Management.

KAI: Are there any certifications or trainings you’ve gone through that have helped in your career?

Nick: Absolutely! The first thing I realized when I made my decision to move from clinical care to administration was that I needed to gain more knowledge of business. My college career to that point focused heavily on the Sciences (Psychology, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc.). I decided to go back to school to obtain an MBA at UC Davis. This experience helped my career TREMENDOUSLY!

KAI: What is your favorite part about your line of work and why?

Nick: I love seeing hard work translate into better process and more efficient systems and seeing that work reverberate throughout the community.

KAI: What is one of the most common questions you receive from clients and what counsel or advice do you give them?

Nick: A question I often get is “how can we get better at what we are doing?” My counsel or advice is usually based in first knowing where you are, embracing the imperfection, and building a measurable path to improvement through multiple small steps. Too often I encounter organizations that have a fear-based culture when it comes to metrics. It usually starts with a manager or executive who reviews metrics and lashes out at any report that spits out anything in red ink. Staff become afraid of being the messenger of sharing the red ink information, and then ultimately (and sometimes subconsciously) start to do things to prevent the red.

My advice, EMBRACE THE RED! Red doesn’t necessarily mean poor performance, it means an opportunity to work together to improve something. For me, it’s more of a Eureka moment!

Now that we’ve learned more about Nick’s background and project management work, here’s a little more about him!

Quick Q&A with Nick:

Daily, must-visit website: MLB At-Bat App. ALL the highlights!

Preferred genre of music or podcast to listen to:  Usually of the Rock / Blues / Acoustic variety. Podcasts, anything funny! Right now, I’m listening to ‘Conan Needs A Friend.’ Good stuff!

Best professional advice received: Measure it, but make it worth measuring!

Book you can read over and over again: Dragons Love Tacos (guess who has a two-year-old?!)

Most-recent binge-watched show: Game of Thrones.

About Nick: Nick Sherrell is a Project Manager with over 10 years of healthcare experience ranging from Quality, Performance Improvement, Technology Implementation, Data Analysis, and Consulting. Nick has worked with organizations ranging from the Sacramento Native American Health Center, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Blue Shield of California, and The Advisory Board Company. He currently works for KAI Partners, Inc as a Project Manager Consultant on a Public contract with the State of California. He received his MBA from UC Davis in 2015 with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior and Innovation. He became a Certified ScrumMaster in 2018 through Scrum Alliance training offered at KAIP Academy. He lives in Sacramento with his wife, two children, and Golden Retriever Emma. Find Nick on LinkedIn here.

KAI Partners News You Can Use

Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Co-working, Government, Healthcare, Hiring, Human Resources, Information Technology, Innovation, ITIL, KAI Partners, KAIP Academy, Learning, Managed IT Services, PMP Certification Bootcamp, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology, The WorkShop, Training, Workforce Development

There’s always a lot going on at KAI Partners—from training opportunities to networking events to new job listings, we always have something afoot! Today we wanted to share with you some KAI Partners news you can use!

Professional Development

Our training division, KAIP Academy, has some great courses coming up, including:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification exam prep (4-day course)
  • Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) Certification via Scrum Alliance (2-day course)
  • Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®) Certification via Scrum Alliance (2-day course)
  • ITIL Foundation 4.0 certification exam prep (2-day course)
  • PMI-ACP certification exam prep (3-day course)
For more information, including course schedule and registration, click here.

Collaboration Destination

Our coworking space in East Sacramento—The WorkShop Sacramento—recently turned one year old!

To celebrate, we are offering a free day of coworking any weekday through April 15, 2019.

If you’re reading this after April 15th, not to worry—our daily drop-in rate is only $20, which is probably what you spend on parking and beverages at the coffeeshop where you normally work! Since we have free parking and coffee, the decision is easy! Come join us at 3301 C St., Bldg. 1000.

We are Hiring!

KAI Partners is hiring for a Managed Services Systems Engineer. The Managed Services Systems Engineer will support the completion of critical infrastructure management tasks, provide Tier 1 support to clients, configure new computers for deployment, and more.

For more information or to apply (and to view all our current job openings), click here.

Events for Everyone

In addition to being a place to rest your laptop, The WorkShop is also an event space! Here are some upcoming events taking place at The WorkShop:

Innovation Corner

We are all about innovation in the public sector, so we wanted to highlight some great innovation happening in that space.

Innovation doesn’t have to be technology forward. Yuba and Sutter Counties recently innovated their mental healthcare services by implementing a new partnership and best practices.

Check out this quick video discussing the Counties’ new venture.

next page »