How The Hilltop Institute at UMBC is working with Medicaid to analyse healthcare intelligence and present it online in an easy-to-understand visual format


Formed in 1994 in following a unique collaboration with the Maryland Medicaid program The Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is a non-partisan health research organization with an expertise in Medicaid and in improving publicly financed health care systems. The Hilltop Institute conducts research, analysis, and evaluations on behalf of government agencies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations at the national, state, and local levels. The Hilltop Institute is committed to addressing complex issues through informed, objective, and innovative research and analysis.

Hilltop has renowned expertise in Medicaid and in improving publicly financed health systems to increase access and positive outcomes for vulnerable populations. The organization addresses issues that concern not only Medicaid, but also other publicly administered programs such as aging services, public health, Medicare, behavioral health, oral health, state coverage initiatives, and Federally-funded AIDS initiatives.

Getting started

John Malloch is a senior programmer at Hilltop, leading the web application development team. He explains that there used to be a full-time member of the team who specialised in GIS. When Hilltop began to look at new ways of presenting data the specialist recommended InstantAtlas.

“Our largest grantor is Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and we wanted to show them what InstantAtlas could do,” says John. Having seen InstantAtlas in action the Department decided it could be used on the public-facing Medicaid website to present data on health status in Maryland.

Dr Laura Herrera, Chief Medical Officer at Maryland Medicaid, was appointed to head up a project team looking at how Medicaid health care statistics could be presented online. John Malloch says close working between The Hilltop Institute and the DHMH meant the project got off to a good start.

Meeting the need

John explains that Hilltop analyses large volumes of Medicaid data which includes qualitative analysis for federal and state programmes. It maintains a copy of all this data in SAS databases and has created a data warehouse in SQL server.

They are looking for an even more seemless process by using InstantAtlas Server for data management and replacing their public facing website.

Thanks to this compatibility users can now access a wide range of information such as dental visits, flu vaccination rates, pregnancy rates, asthma rates and diabetes. The data content in the map dashboards is summarized from the Maryland Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS). The diagnostic categories and groups are the codes from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). The statistics are taken from MMIS fee-for-service and Health Choice program data based on data provided to the states by the health care provider types specified in the title of each report.

“It has proved very popular and the local press were very interested in what we are doing,” says John. The intended audience was state government agencies as well as other health care related concerns such as county health departments, hospitals, Managed Care Organizations, and Universities with departments working on health care research. John is convinced the website is helping to get information out to the right people.

Future developments

The team is currently concentrating on adding IA functionality to existing areas of the website where data is not presented in an online interactive format. “It’s adding depth that we haven’t had before,” says John. As well as moving to InstantAtlas Server, the program team is also considering which additional areas of health focus can be included on the website.

John explains that the Federal mandate for a new Medicaid system will see further expansion in the program since all states have begun to implement the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid will have a bigger role to play in the development of Healthcare Exchanges which in turn will require greater reliance on accurate and timely health information. “We are just getting started and IA is our foray into rich internet applications,” says John.

observatory mapping tools

Key benefits

  • Medicaid data that is held in SAS database integrates seamlessly with InstantAtlas
  • The use of InstantAtlas has brought a new level of interactivity and personalization and depth to the data that is available on the website. Users can customise their data views so it is most useful to them.
  • Data is presented in an easy-to-understand format that has been welcomed by users
  • Government agencies and community organizations are able to make assessments of need based on the same data

Other InstantAtlas stories and reports

CDC - “How the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has used data reporting and visualization to develop its Disability and Health Data System (DHDS)”

Arizona Department of Health Services - Making data presentation meaningful when dealing with low rates of population density

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation - Helping people interested in global health view, understand and evaluate high-quality health data

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News and Articles


Arizona Department of Health Services | ‘Making data presentation meaningful when dealing with low rates of population density’


The Institute for Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of Texas | ‘Making data available to the community through easy-to-use data presentation tools’


Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) – ”How the Pan American Health Organization is using data presentation to aid the policy-making process”