CTG's Data Visualization-Ready Framework Helps New Yorkers Make Better Health Insurance Decisions

Jan. 11, 2018
Contact: Michael Parker
(518) 442-3892

New York State citizens have access to new tools to help them make decisions about which health insurance plan is best for them and their families. Through a partnership with Health Data NY, part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s open data initiative, a team of researchers and student scientists from the Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany produced new interactive visualizations using data on the quality of health insurance plans collected and made publicly available by NYS DOH. The project, funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medical Services, focused on using CTG’s “Data Visualization-Ready” framework to help NYS DOH meet its goal of supporting citizen health insurance choice-making through more accessible and usable data visualizations.

The CTG UAlbany/NYS DOH Project Team focused on: 1. Making data about the quality of health insurance plans more accessible to the citizens of NYS through the use of visualizations, and 2. Applying CTG’s data visualization framework to NYS DOH data to demonstrate its adaptability across datasets, years, situations, and users – without requiring complete re-development efforts. CTG built the visualization code so that any agency, including NYS DOH, could adapt and reuse it. “CTG’s data visualization framework,” according to Dr. Helbig, “gives us functional and durable code that allows our web developers to easily modify existing and create new visualizations with additional data sets without having to start from scratch.” The NYS DOH team is using the framework to expand the visualizations available to citizens through Health Data NY. 

According to Dr. Jim Costello, CTG web applications developer, “The overarching strength of CTG’s data visualization framework is that it allows agencies to develop once, apply often in an efficient and timely manner.” In NYS DOH’s case, CTG’s work helped reduce the time to complete the annual publishing of the data by two months while also reducing redundancy and errors in the data.

The potential of CTG’s data visualization framework is not limited to health data. “From our partnership with NYS DOH we developed and refined an approach that we can use with any government organization that is interested in maximizing the value of their open data; regardless of the focus of the data set,” said Dr. Theresa Pardo, CTG Director. 

This project was carried out through CTG UAlbany’s Student Technology Innovations Lab Experience (STILE) program. The STILE program recruits exceptional students at UAlbany for experiential learning opportunities through CTG projects with state and local agencies. According to Derek Werthmuller, CTG Director of Technology Innovation and Services, “Our STILE program responds to increasing demand from government partners looking to use technology to find innovative solutions to improve services to citizens.” The open health data visualization project engaged two Computer Science graduate students from UAlbany’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Public Affairs and Policy doctoral student from UAlbany’s Rockefeller College.

For more information about this project and to see NYS DOH’s eQARR visualization tool created through this project please visit 

About CTG: The Center for Technology in Government is an applied research center at the University at Albany, world-renowned for its work with governments around the world to improve public service through innovations in technology, policy, and management.

The project described was supported by Funding opportunity Number PR-PRP-13-001 from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medical Services. The content of this project update report is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of HHS, HHS agencies, HRI or the Project Sponsor.