Data Driven Business Through Agile Analytics

By | February 18, 2014

The Unified Data Architecture has been a great opportunity for the IT team to help with immediate business needs with the Aster platform in parallel to the long-term build of the enterprise data warehouse.  It’s really given us a chance to provide quick wins and show value within the program and provide that short-term vision as well as building out the long-term vision within the program.” Dan Powers, Director, Data Management

Dan Powers, Director of Data Management

Agile Analytics – that’s how Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Director of Data Management Dan Powers refers to their new found analytic powers from Teradata Aster. When we sat down with Dan he had so many use cases for actionable insights derived from Aster (in the first couple of months!) that it was hard to pick.  But, we did. Dan talks about three compelling examples of the value of big data, discovery analytics, and how quickly the Wellmark team produced actionable insights for the business.


Dan explains one of the most valuable benefits of Teradata Aster is how it is a fast onramp channel to the integrated data warehouse for quick test and development.  Wellmark’s Aster Discovery Platform allows for test bed projects to become reality much quicker and in some cases return dollars just as fast!  It’s just one reason why the Wellmark team looks at data and analytics as a value center rather than a cost center.

 “We plan to use Aster across the board.  We’ve got pent up demand within the business for this, where we can help them answer questions and do that without a formal project and do that quickly; give them the answers that they need so that they can make quick decisions.  I think there’s such a large backlog that we’ll be able to do this iteratively over time; it’ll just be the way we do business.” Dan Powers, Director, Data Management


Imagine how surprised the Wellmark team was when they found that 6-7% of their members accounted for 50% of the overall call volume.  Wellmark took big data (web log) and combined it with administrative claims data, member data, call logs, and wellness program participation data. Wellmark performed text analysis on the call logs and through Discovery found the statistic that otherwise was buried in the data.  Because major priority is customer service, Wellmark took immediate action through member education to eliminate the need for those members to call at all.

Member Web Based Inquiries
Cluster Analysis

This also lowered administrative costs and increased customer satisfaction.  Win, win.  Most of the data Wellmark used for this use case had already been collected for other business purposes.  Now with Teradata Aster, this data is harnessed for even more actionable insights.

 “From a process perspective, one of our biggest lessons learned was that you can approach  Aster projects the same way you would a typical enterprise data warehouse project or any other waterfall SDLC approach you really have to work in close collaboration with the business.  And so what that meant for Wellmark was that we could work with them to understand their needs, give them answers quickly and then move on to the next layer.  So answer questions, get additional questions from the business, go to work on those and come back and a more iterative collaborative process.” Dan Powers, Director, Data Management



The second use case Dan Powers detailed for us was inappropriate prescription drug use; a costly consequence that equaled poor patient care.  With Teradata Aster, the Wellmark team found a certain class of drugs being prescribed when there was little or no indication that the patient really needed the drug.  This significant percentage jeopardized the care of Wellmark members and generated higher costs.

Wellmark took pharmacy data, claims data, and membership information.  Aster allows NPATH and Wellmark needed the time series of the care events with frequency and specific sequence. They asked questions like

  • What were the care paths that led to the prescription?
  • Are there alternative therapies?
  • Who is prescribing?

NPATH led them directly to the answer.  A few months later, a Wall Street Journal article cited the same findings; Wellmark was ahead of the curve and had already started provider education.  By that time physicians were prescribing the drugs less and bettering patient care.

 “I think from a membership perspective what our members will see is that we’re a more nimble enterprise; that we can respond to their needs more quickly; that we can take quick action and find ways to help them solve their problems and help them with their needs.”


Representing members in two states, Wellmark is well acquainted with members who live near state borders and cross state lines for medical care.  What they discovered after examining 4 years of data in Teradata Aster with Unified Data Architecture is how many members, who lived in the middle of the state, were traveling two and three hours over state lines for medical care.

Analysis Found Members Traveling From Central Counties

“This was a new learning for Wellmark.  It wasn’t immediately actionable.  As with all of our Aster projects we try to be iterative and so we work in close conjunction with the business to test the conventional wisdom in this case and then take it a few steps further.  So ask questions, go and seek those insights, bring it back to the business for analysis and do that very quickly; really look for those opportunities of quick wins or fail fast.”  Dan Powers, Director, Data Management



Driven by the Teradata Aster capability, Wellmark continues to make positive impacts on the business.  Balancing short term and long term needs and focusing on the projects that are really worth the effort.  In the end opportunities in the data paid for the integrated data warehouse. Wellmark kept the vision business focused and found numerous unforeseen opportunities and then capitalized on them.

Thank you, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield for sharing your story of data innovation!



One thought on “Data Driven Business Through Agile Analytics

  1. avatarDavid Wiggin

    Great job Dan!

    My favorite parts of this video are: 1) Dan describes using the Aster Discovery Environment to find value for business quickly and iteratively, and 2) it showcases that Aster isn’t a one trick pony – in the first few months, it’s brought value munching on web data and finding an opportunity to improve member quality of care.

    I can’t wait to see what the team discovers next!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *