Case Studies

How Alegeus Shortens Sprints to Deploy Healthtech at Speed with Tonic

Chiara Colombi
November 12, 2020
How Alegeus Shortens Sprints to Deploy Healthtech at Speed with Tonic
In this article

    The Challenges of Scaling Up

    As the market leader in consumer-directed healthcare solutions, Alegeus simplifies the administration of healthcare benefit accounts and uses data-driven insights to guide consumers to the care they need. The company has experienced rapid growth in recent years, thanks to the rise of HSAs, and has had to scale up its development teams to meet the demand. But when it came to scaling the data needed to effectively build the technology, those teams immediately ran into roadblocks.

    HIPAA regulations and the presence of PHI and PII throughout their databases prevented Alegeus developers from accessing production data. They were left to manually populate a QA environment that came nowhere near the scale or complexity of the data required.

    “Before implementing Tonic, our QA and development environments looked nothing like production. Tonic removed a major blocker for us by enabling our teams to test at scale with data that mirrors the size, shape, and feel of our production data. And by guaranteeing privacy for HIPAA compliance, Tonic allows us to share that data safely with our off-shore development teams, too.” - Nemo Nemeth, Head of Data Products at Alegeus

    After exploring the market for data obfuscation and synthesis platforms, Alegeus found that Tonic best met its needs for flexibility, rapid deployment, ease of use, and, notably, the ability to deploy into an air-gapped environment for the highest degree of security. Add to that Tonic’s use of differential privacy to provide mathematical guarantees for data protection, and Alegeus technical leaders were fully on board.

    A Solution with White-Glove Support

    With Tonic connected on-prem to the Alegeus SQL server databases, the Alegeus data team is able to securely obfuscate their production data, while preserving the layered complexity of large health plans and third-party administrators umbrellaed over employer groups managing umpteen individual member accounts. The resulting output dataset hydrates a staging environment, fully independent of production, that developers and data analysts use to test and build new products with a degree of accuracy and familiarity previously unthinkable. The ability to calibrate exactly which data requires obfuscation, while leaving non-sensitive data in place, amplifies the balance the team can achieve between data privacy and utility.

    Thanks to Tonic, the Alegeus data team has saved several days out of every sprint, significantly shortening their development cycle. They finally have the amount of data they need to build out and deploy new features at a speed that matches their company’s growth. “As more teams become aware of Tonic here at Alegeus, more of them want access to the data it's generating,” says Nemo Nemeth, Head of Data Products at Alegeus. “It’s a major step up in terms of what we’re able to do internally, thanks to the time we’re saving in each sprint, and how we’re able to engage with our off-shore development teams.” The time savings and expanded workforce abroad is enabling them to push through more items and embark on new projects faster.

    But Tonic’s core capabilities aren’t the only aspect driving data obfuscation success for Alegeus. Given the customized nature of its products, Alegeus stressed flexibility as a key criteria of its needs. As Nemeth states, “Tonic delivered beyond our expectations there. The team has been extremely responsive, working with us closely and engaging with our partner vendors to make sure all systems sync.” Rarely does a one-size-fits-all solution work when it comes to data management, and Tonic’s engineers have iterated quickly to meet Alegeus needs as they arise. Among the most valued features, Tonic’s incremental mode in particular has helped Alegeus significantly speed up data de-identification by only processing database changes that have occurred since the previous run.

    “With Tonic, you get all the benefits of a smart, hungry startup—being super flexible, working hand-in-hand, iterating quickly to deploy new features—without any of the drawbacks some people fear,” explains Nemeth. “They have a superstar engineering team, willing to engage on every level with a white-glove approach. I can’t say enough good things about them.”

    Looking forward, a major initiative currently in the works at Alegeus is to use Tonic to hydrate Alegeus beta releases, so customers can test out the UI and new features in an environment that feels just like production. Alegeus is also planning to build a training platform for its customers that would exclusively use obfuscated data.

    Tonic’s Impact and Results

    • Transformed the Alegeus QA and development environment with compliant, realistic data at scale
    • Significantly shortened the Alegeus development cycle, enabling the release of more features per sprint
    • Unblocked work with off-shore development teams while fully complying with HIPAA data privacy regulations
    Chiara Colombi
    Director of Product Marketing
    A bilingual wordsmith dedicated to the art of engineering with words, Chiara has over a decade of experience supporting corporate communications at multi-national companies. She once translated for the Pope; it has more overlap with translating for developers than you might think.