Laura deSouza is a product owner at MMIT. She’s part of a growing team that manages MMIT’s data systems — the searchable tools that grant clients access to payer formularies and drug prior authorization requirements — among other datasets. She helps prioritize products based on client needs, ensuring our product teams are using their highly specialized skillsets to maximize efficiency and value.
What does your day usually look like?
My day-to-day involves a lot of fielding support tickets that come through, planning improvements with the tech team and taking requirements from the client support teams and data operations. It’s a fun balance of helping put out fires and planning solutions.
What kind of products do you manage?
Recently I took ownership of the API — or an application programming interface — which is basically a way to stream data. There are a lot of ways that we deliver data. In data services, we’re thinking about how we take in the data — like web scraping, or people entering data into an application — and then all the calculations to mush that data together and come up with a coherent picture. And then finally, there’s how we deliver the data. Our API fuels our coverage search application, a free app that you can get on your iPad if you need to search for formulary data on any product or plan. When you’re looking at that data, it’s coming from the API. We have clients who use our API directly to fuel their websites.
Who do you work with the most at MMIT?
I work closely with the product owners of our different applications, because these other applications rely upon our data. If you’re building something in a different application that doesn’t align with what our data can handle, then you’re in a trouble spot. I actually work most often with the tech team, which executes and helps design our data solutions.
How did you get into this field?
In my previous life, I was in neurobiology in academia. It made me very comfortable with large datasets and coding. And when you’re in science, a lot of what you’re trying to do is take large amounts of data and produce a story that makes sense to people. If you have a conversation with a scientist who knows your specific field, you’re going to talk with a certain level of detail vs. a scientist who isn’t within that specialty. You have to be flexible and have those different levels of conversation available, which I think applies to products, too. You have to talk to the client teams about what matters for the client, to operations about what matters to them, and do trainings on how to use the product.
What’s been your biggest success at your job so far?
One of my biggest accomplishments was working on the Medicaid initiative, where we implemented a new set of business rules. This is probably the first time new rules were developed at the company since about 2016, and it was more complicated than anything else we had done in the past. Now what we’re finding is that those business rules have really improved our data, and we’re hoping to enable them across the board.
Medicaid has a whole series of regulations that dictate how payers have to cover drugs, via national level mandates and state level mandates. We figured out how to program them in, and made sure that as mandates change, we can keep up with the changes. It actually took a panel of people to do the work that the rule does automatically in the background.
What exactly is a business rule?
We have something like 2,000 formularies and 150,000 products in a database. For each product, we try to capture how each one is covered on each formulary, and we have a bunch of teams working really hard to capture as much published data as possible. Payers don’t publish everything, so we have to fill in the gaps. If a drug is not actually listed on a payer’s website, we have to figure out how it is covered. Business rules are meant to answer that exact question — to fill in the gaps that payers leave on their websites or in the data that they send to us.
What does MMIT do, in your own words?
We bring together different sources of health care data to try to give actionable pictures of the state of things so that our clients — whether they are pharma, payers or specialty pharmacies — take actions that will help them serve their own clients better.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Gosh, it’s pretty much all day baby. [deSouza had her first child in 2020]. I also like to bake, and I like to sew!