Following the Money
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The Washington, D.C.-based Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation raises more than $119 million a year from diverse sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Disney, CBS, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the NBA, actor Harrison Ford, IBM and members of the public.
Carrying on the work started by Glaser--who passed away from the disease in 1994--the foundation provides health care services for more than 2 million women at 3,700 locations around the world. As with other nonprofits, Glaser employees must provide detailed reports to donors about how funds are used, such as how many people have been tested for HIV and how many are being treated successfully.
Traditionally, the process of gathering such massive data on a global scale was a cumbersome, manual one. Workers--some in remote locations--typed reports into Excel spreadsheets and attempted to e-mail or fax them to centralized locations. Data integrity was often poor. Slow Internet connections, frequent power losses and limited technical know-how further hindered the process. Sometimes, workers resorted to phoning in the latest numbers, which could increase the likelihood of inaccuracy.
"The data wasn't readily available," says Mark Reilley, director of IT for the foundation. "We didn't have the policies we needed in place to designate proper access. We couldn't be assured of its accuracy. We needed a solution that addressed all of these concerns."
Reilley and his team went with a .Net application from Acumen Solutions to consolidate and make use of the data. It allows each international site to automate reporting on a Web-based platform. At the headquarters level, the BI/BA solution provides a previously unavailable and valuable perspective on the intricacies of the funding impact. It can cross-track sites and their funding levels with the number of patients being treated. It can tap into the foundation's travel database and pinpoint which areas have been visited most often, and whether those regions have made a large impression on the quality of local health care.
"It lets us see where the dollars are going," Reilley says, "and what kind of value we're getting."
To take this "next-level" tool to an even higher level, Acumen and Reilley envision coming up with a next-generation version that can analyze data not just for numbers, but nuance. One nation may, for example, receive more travel funding than another but produce lower results for some reason. Perhaps there was a higher rate of clinic turnover there and new employees needed extensive training. Reilley looks forward to the day when these kinds of "special circumstances" can be crunched into the numbers.
"To find out that sort of thing now, you usually have to pick up the phone," he says. "What we need from these systems is to have the information come up automatically, so we can make quick conclusions that are also the correct ones."