As government agencies shape their goals and priorities for the new administration, they continue to target waste, fraud, and abuse. Rob Owens, deputy inspector general for Management and Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), explained this week how HHS is targeting waste, fraud, and abuse by utilizing geospatial analytics and visualization as part of a Geographic Information System (GIS).

The experience, according to Owens, has been both positive and negative, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, HHS developed and deployed the GEOHub, a GIS system which supports the agency’s geospatial analytics and visualization. With this tool, the agency can show stakeholders the impact of their work using this data.

“What we call data at the fingertips, for our external stakeholders can help detect and reduce fraud, waste, and abuse in HHS programs,” said Owens.

The first thing displayed on the GEOHub application is a story map about the behavioral health medication-assisted treatment viewer. The interactive story map allows users to explore data related to the opioid epidemic, and there’s also a geospatial tool for the agency’s COVID-19 work.

While working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), HHS developed geospatial analysis to find fraud patterns during the pandemic. For example, if a health care provider performs an impossible amount of work, GIS can track if the work was completed within an appropriate location. In addition, when somebody creates a digital transaction through CMS, there’s metadata that gets also gets created through that transaction, and that’s what HHS used to gather data from the transactions to find waste and abuse potential.

Even with all that work, Owens said, HHS is still constrained by cost. To overcome this challenge, HHS took advantage of its partnership with CMS and utilized its analytical tools to collect data and conduct fraud.

In other applications, HHS has also worked with the Department of Homeland Security and migrant children at the nation’s borders. HHS auditors are in the field at these facilities making sure that the people that are in place taking care of these children have the proper certifications and background to perform that work.

“We are using our technology to validate employees that are working with these children. We are also making recommendations to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which runs this program for HHS on improving their technology,” said Owens.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.