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March 7, 2022 . Sandy Bielawa

We are Ursa Health: meet Santhosh Raj

Ursa Health Blog

Visit Ursa Health's blog to gain healthcare data analytics insights or to get to know us a little better. Read more ...

What’s your role at Ursa Health, and what do you do?

I’m a principal healthcare data architect, which involves integrating, transforming, and modeling complex datasets to generate business insights and value for Ursa Health’s clients. This falls into two broad categories:

  • First, I’m working with the Ursa Core Data Model to capture complex clinical, financial, and operational concepts, as well as enhancing the model to ensure that we can effectively serve our clients with the analytical inputs they need.
  • Second, I’m a technical partner and resource to other teams at Ursa Health, such as the Product team, DevOps, and Customer Success—analyzing complex datasets, enhancing the ELT pipeline, developing data marts to support client builds of predictive models or the process of feeding insights back into clinical workflow applications. I then help incorporate the learnings into Ursa Studio to enhance our ability to uncover new areas of opportunity for our clients.

Can you share a little about your background?

I have always enjoyed working with healthcare data, specifically harnessing the power of technology advancements and innovation to figure out the most efficient way to create value out of the data that’s available. That’s been my focus for about 12-plus years now. The complexity within the healthcare domain has always fascinated me, how hard it is to find value in data—it’s like searching for gold in a pile of dirt and rubble.

As I worked with large teams consisting of diverse stakeholders, I found that a big gap exists between technical and business resources. They often speak different languages, focus on different details, and measure results very differently. This often creates massive problems in terms of outcomes, because it isn’t always clear what problem you're solving for.

That became my niche and interest area. I did my masters in management information systems, which focuses on effectively bridging the gap between technical and management concepts. I continued my professional journey with Advisory Board and then spent almost 8 years at UnitedHealth Group (Optum). During this stint I played multiple roles, including leading the revenue cycle data acquisition services team and working with potential clients to understand their technical landscape, such as the combination of health information systems in use and the most efficient data acquisition protocols and methodologies to extract data from those health information systems and channel it through the ETL or ELT pipeline. I focused on the provider revenue cycle and areas related to patient accounting, claims, billing data, and EMR/EHR clinical data.

From there, I moved into client support services, leading support engineers to ensure a premium level of technical support for end-to-end provider clients. And then finally I worked as the senior data lead with the Optum growth solution design engineering team, where the key responsibility was to conduct assessments evaluating health system performance spanning a wide breadth of functional areas, such as acute and ambulatory revenue cycle operations, population health (clinical), information technology, analytics, and finance, with a goal of unlocking market performance partnership opportunities between Optum and the potential provider clients.

Having donned multiple hats in the last decade, my focus has been and continues to be how individuals and organizations within healthcare can make informed data-driven decisions resulting in an enhanced patient experience. It is also important to build data assets and processes that ensure accessibility and reusability.

Why did you decide to work for Ursa Health?

John Toher [senior director, Technical Services, at Ursa Health] is a good friend, and we had worked together at Advisory Board and Optum. John and I regularly had conversations about advancements within healthcare and the different approaches organizations are taking to solve the problems at hand.

John mentioned his great experience working at Ursa Health and how the company has been able to solve a lot of complex problems within a very short period. Everyone is trying to move through the Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (DIKW) Continuum as quickly as possible, enabled by best-in-class processes and toolkits. At previous organizations, it would take months of work just to spin up a pipeline for moving data from source A to destination B—only then could we derive value. I was fascinated by what Ursa was doing, how quickly Ursa Studio could deliver outputs to the client and the ease with which the entire value infrastructure could be set up.

And that just opened the door to more conversations. I talked with Aaron [Mock, senior vice president, Operations]. Incidentally, he is also a previous Advisory Board employee, and the conversation solidified my initial understanding of the platform. I wanted to be part of the journey, essentially continuing to work in a space I am very passionate about. After getting a glimpse of the Ursa Studio platform, I could totally see how technology and innovation could be used to solve the data and analytics problem that we have within healthcare.

What do you find to be the best part about working at Ursa Health?

The company has a keen eye for solving client problems, even though this work is as complex as it can be. Usually, analytics solutions are comfortable in their sweet spot, so the process is more like “This is what we can do, and we are going to stick to that.” What I've seen so far working with the Ursa team is the willingness to approach new concepts with openness and rigor, then the ease of imbibing new thinking within Ursa Studio. That just amazes me. There’s never a pushback—it's always a step forward. The team has the attitude of “Hey, we are here to solve your problem, no matter how complicated it is.” That makes me happy and is very different from a big organization, where so much is set in stone and you cannot deviate much from it.

Most organizations speak about creating a solution that clients would be happy to use, but I have seen how we openly share client feedback, both positive and negative, and then determine whether there is something that we can change to make the experience better or to have a stronger impact. Ursa is highly customer focused.

Clients just rave about the tool and how easy it is for them to derive value. And that makes your life more meaningful in a way, when you can see the impact that your work creates and how happy clients are using this platform compared to what they've been familiar with.

Team Ursa is a group of motivated, focused, intelligent, friendly people who are willing to take that additional step to get things going in the right direction. I’m just so happy to be a part of a team where people are so focused about “why” we are doing ”what” we are doing.

What is the one thing people are surprised to learn about you?

I love swimming. I could swim for hours at a time—usually, my average time in a pool is 1.5 to 2 hours. I'm not a sprinter, I just go at my own pace but can stay in the water for hours at a time. It is a form of meditation to nurture inner peace.

Also, ice cream is my first love (shhh—don’t tell my wife!). Any day, any season, I can finish a tub of ice cream in no time.

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