PCSB Real-World Project Partnership with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island

Wanting to roll out a new program designed to improve the health of people managing a certain medical condition, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), a nonprofit, community-focused health plan established in 1939, needed to know which members would participate in and benefit from the program the most. This program involved distributing equipment and training, so selecting the best participants would be a critical part of the program’s success. How does a company identify that group? The answer is in the data – if you can find it and interpret it properly!

To crunch the data and develop analytical models to identify the members most likely to benefit from the new program, BCBSRI turned to students in the Providence College School of Business graduate program. In a class focused on business analytical consulting projects, these PC MBA and Business Analytics Graduate Certificate students combed through the de-identified BCSBRI member data, layered in external data and trends, and developed statistical models to identify the members most likely to engage in the program, adopt the new technology, and benefit from it.

Taught by Dr. Adam Villa, associate professor in the PC mathematics & computer science department, these graduate business students first learned a variety of data analytical tools and worked with BCBSRI managers to better understand the data’s context. Then students applied their new knowledge to this real-world situation. Students also learned how to effectively tell a story with data, leading their audience through graphs and critical findings to reveal data-based, strategic recommendations.

BCBSRI has partnered with PC MBA and certificate students on different analytical, real-world, consulting projects several times over the past few years. In thanking BCBSRI, PCSB dean, Dr. Sylvia Maxfield, noted that students enjoy applying their skills to real-world projects for clients. “We know from research about pedagogy that this type of experiential learning is very impactful and meaningful for students. Students consistently cite these real-world projects as highlights of their time in a PCSB graduate program,” she said.

Mark Stewart, BCBSRI executive vice president and chief financial officer, noted that it is “… always a pleasure to interact with Providence College students.” After the students presented their analysis and strategic recommendations, Mr. Stewart, along with other BCBSRI executives, gave feedback directly to the student groups. In particular, Mr. Stewart stressed the importance of data visualization. “My team is probably tired of hearing me preach it:  you can do the best data analysis in the world, but if you can’t communicate it effectively and tell a story with it, then it’s just data for data’s sake. I applaud you for including this visualization, especially with Tableau, in making your recommendations.”

BCBSRI received all of the students’ materials so they can plan their next steps for the program’s rollout. Interestingly, every team took a slightly different approach in developing their statistical model, which resulted in some different strategic recommendations. Regardless of which approach the company utilizes, these PC graduate business students know that they have contributed to the BCBSRI’s effort to “passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island,” all while developing and deploying their business analytic and visualization skills.

Also: learn about how PCSB students partnered with Citizens on a real-world consulting project.