Maryland Industrial Partnerships brief

Using artificial intelligence to reduce monitoring and knowledge diffusion costs for Medicare Advantage Plans: A Feasibility Study

Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), was awarded a grant through the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program to develop a health care research and delivery virtual collaborative system to provide researchers, practitioners, and professionals with a platform to share information, best practices, research, publications, and studies. The MIPS program is a branch of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (MTECH), which is run through the University of Maryland. The program aims to “accelerate the commercialization of technology in Maryland by jointly funding collaborative R&D projects between companies and University System of Maryland faculty.”

To complete this task, Optimal developed a system titled Quality Improvement, Innovation, and Dissemination (QI2D). The QI2D is a third-generation (3G) healthcare research and delivery collaborative system that provides a unique platform to provide access and information in one centralized place. It is used to facilitate multidimensional communications and evaluate exchanges on the QI2D using a diffusion of innovation model informing how, why, and at what rate practices or quality improvement innovations spread through practitioner, research, and policymaker populations. The program was executed in two phases: Phase I sought to customize the open-source HUBzero collaboration platform to create the QI2D and recruit key stakeholders and participants for a pilot study. This study was designed to stimulate and monitor real-world usage and guided enhancements and/or marketing approaches for Phase II. The second phase incorporated augmentations to Optimal’s previous collaborative system and included a second pilot study, web-based surveys, and focus groups at the annual Improvement Science Summit to analyze challenges and areas of improvement.

Small Business Administration brief

Highlights of Evaluation Methods

• Key program outcomes, including small business revenue, employment, and payroll growth for each cluster, are benchmarked against similar businesses in the same industry and region.

• Provides a synthetic control group to account for economy-wide, regional, and industry-specific trends and shocks.

• Relies on Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dunn & Bradstreet, and U.S. Census data.

Multimodal Surveys

• Surveys are developed for both Web and interactive PDF smartform deployment.

• Controls data collection costs (majority of data collected via the Web), yet also enables clusters to collect data from participants during regularly occurring interactions (e.g., phone, at events).

• Enhances response rate by accommodating participant preferences and circumventing inaccurate e-mail addresses.

Network Analysis

• Clusters’ structure is mapped using network analysis, based on strength of relationships and frequency of interactions.

• Allows for a visual representation of the complex “shape” and composition of clusters, complementing statistical analysis and qualitative data.

• Enables the tracking of each cluster’s evolving “shape” and composition over the duration of the initiatives to infer sustainability.

About the Small Business Administration Cluster Contracts


Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), has been contracted by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to monitor and evaluate the Regional Innovation Cluster Initiative, which launched in 2010. Optimal has developed survey instruments designed to collect information from the SBA-funded clusters, their small businesses, and large organizations. The surveys are administered via the web and are complemented with interactive PDF surveys towards the end of the data collection period. The surveys collects information on reasons for participation in clusters, satisfaction with cluster services, revenue, employment, progress towards commercialization, and other key outcomes of the program. Optimal also interacts and coordinates with various cluster stakeholders and works systematically to gain an understanding of the assets, features, and barriers of each cluster’s industry of focus. You can find a recent report here:

In 2014, SBA contracted with Optimal to expand its data collection and analysis efforts to six of the agency’s programs and initiatives, including the Women’s Business Center, SCORE and Small Business Development Center programs, and the Emerging Leaders, ScaleUp, and Regional Innovation Cluster initiatives.

International Conference on Public Policy- Singapore 2017

The 3rd annual International Conference on Public Policy is around the corner, and this year Optimal will be a presenter at the three-day conference (June 28th-30th) in Singapore. The conference will include panels, networking, and workshops that feature talks on policy design, the political process of policy making, policy instruments and more.

Among the presenters will be Optimal’s CEO, Mark Turner and Senior Research Associate, Jennifer Auer. Drs. Turner and Auer will be presenting two papers at the conference; “The role of government at each stage of business growth” and “The role of Urban Policy in coordinating Entrepreneur Ecosystems. These papers apply two theoretical lenses to inform the appropriate role of government in entrepreneur policy: business life cycle stages from management theory and market failures from classical economics.

This year the conference will take place at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore and is expecting over 1,500 participants. The scholars presenting at this year’s conference are coming from 80 countries to share their research papers.

To find out more about the 2017 ICPP conference, please visit