Improving Population Health Management, One Data Point at a Time
Health Dialog is full of devoted employees committed to our mission of helping clients improve population health, reduce costs, and engage patients to make the best decisions about their health. In this series, we spotlight the hard-working professionals who help us realize that mission each and every day.
Meet Renee Gulotta: As the Director of Analytics, Renee is our data whiz. With extensive experience analyzing data in different industries, she is proud to work for a mission-driven company that is committed to improving population health management.
What do you do at Health Dialog?
I lead our analytic development team, which uses data about our members to predict who would most benefit from Health Dialog’s population health management and medication adherence programs. Our goal is to make sure that the people who are most in need of healthcare support get the help they need. We also enable our clients to better prioritize resources and reduce wasteful population health outreach efforts.
What work did you do before joining Health Dialog?
What’s great about data analytics is that you can do it for all different types of businesses. I started out when we were first learning how the internet could be used to deliver data. From there, I moved into the aviation industry. I was using data to plan out flight times to maximize efficiency, which is when I started thinking about predictive modeling—the same type of modeling we use at Health Dialog to understand people’s behaviors so we may more efficiently target them for population health management and medication adherence interventions. Following that, I did other work targeting different types of customers for direct mail campaigns. I also earned my MBA with a focus on data analytics. Eventually, I started doing analytics work related to urgent care clinics, which is when I started getting interested in healthcare. That’s what led me to Health Dialog.
And while I didn’t start my career thinking about a role in healthcare, in some ways, I feel like I came full circle to my roots. My grandfather was a pharmacist and my father was a doctor, so I guess healthcare was always in my blood.
“One thing I have always liked about analytics is that it enables you to uncover information out of data. It’s so cool to me that information is just sitting there, waiting for you to discover it. Numbers can tell stories.”
What made you decide to pursue a career using math and data analysis skills?
I actually wasn’t always on that track. When I was in school, I was good at math. I was encouraged to pursue things related to math, but as a girl, I sometimes felt embarrassed because I didn’t think it was something I was “supposed” to like and do. That said, I recently found a school assignment from when I was a little girl. The assignment was to describe what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I drew a picture that looked like an old-fashioned computer, so I was headed down the data path without even knowing it. When I went to college, I only took one math course and one computer science course. Even though I enjoyed the coursework, I didn’t feel any camaraderie with the other students—the classrooms were mostly filled with boys. But after spending the following year focusing solely on liberal arts courses, I was unsatisfied. I had to check in with myself, and I realized I wanted to do something more technical, so that’s what drew me into an engineering program that also incorporated psychology. There was a human side, but it also had a really strong math component, so that’s what kept me on the technical track.
One thing I have always liked about analytics is that it enables you to uncover information out of data. It’s so cool to me that information is just sitting there, waiting for you to discover it. Numbers can tell stories. At Health Dialog, these stories might help us understand which people are likely to stick with their medication plans, who is likely to change their behavior, and who is most at risk for developing complications. I also love using graphs to make those stories tangible and bring them to life.
“We specifically analyze patterns in people’s past behavior to predict future behavior. Sometimes, it feels like we are detectives.”
Can you talk about how Health Dialog uses data to target individuals who may benefit from population health management programs?
We use data from various sources to develop predictive models, which are equations that use data from the past to predict what may happen in the future. We specifically analyze patterns in people’s past behavior to predict future behavior. Sometimes, it feels like we are detectives. Based on what we learn, we are able to identify those who are more likely to put themselves at risk in the future. And then we can try to work with those people to change their behavior to reduce their risk.
For example, right now we are doing a lot of work related to medication adherence—whether someone sticks to their medication regimen. By working with our parent company, Rite Aid, we can analyze how often someone is picking up their prescribed medication. We also analyze a variety of other factors about each person, such as their age, if they are on other medicines, their shopping habits, income level, and how far they need to travel to their pharmacy, among other things. We take all of that information into account, and through our predictive modeling tools, we are able to identify those who are less likely to pick up their medications in the future. Then we identify which factors may be correlated with whether people pick up their meds. This prediction, along with other factors, is used to determine who to call to discuss why medication adherence is important and why it’s important to overcome any barriers that may be preventing adherence.
“Ultimately, effective behavior-change programs that target the right people can significantly impact population health outcomes.”
What inspires you about a project like this?
When working with data, I think about how the information we collect can eventually impact someone’s life. Evidence shows that people who are more adherent to their medication are healthier overall. They are less likely to have complications with the condition they are treating. For certain conditions, skipping medication can be extremely dangerous. At the moment, we are particularly focused on helping people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol adhere to their drug regimen through population health management and medication adherence programs. Ultimately, effective behavior-change programs that target the right people can significantly impact population health outcomes.
What do you like most about working at Health Dialog?
My favorite part of working at Health Dialog is being part of a multi-faceted team. Each person brings unique talents, ideas, and curiosities to the table and, together, we work toward the same goal: improving patient and population health outcomes. It’s so exciting to see how the predictions we develop are used by health coaches to impact health at both an individual and population level.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t at Health Dialog?
I haven’t done it in a few years, but I like flying airplanes and gliders. For about 25 years I was in the greater Boston soaring club. Lately I’ve been more into biking and spin classes.
Thank you, Renee, for your dedication to the Health Dialog cause!
To meet more Health Dialog team members, check out these posts:
- Gini Lea Quinn – a dedicated nurse health coach who is proud to be a part of Health Dialog’s can-do culture
- Ryan Croteau – an 11-year veteran of Health Dialog who works side-by-side with our clients to launch population health management and patient engagement programs
- Esther Shapiro – a dedicated nurse health coach who loves making a difference in the lives of our patients
- Erica Rew – a dietician who loves helping people achieve their diet and exercise goals