Minnesota Bridge Image
St. Anthony Main
219 Main Street SE, Suite 302
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414

(f) 612.623.8807

We are participating in some upcoming conferences in the field of tobacco control!

The Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco’s annual meeting was in Florence, Italy March 8-11. Sadly, no PDA staff attended in-person, but we did co-author several posters.

The North American Quitline Consortium’s conference is March 20-21 in Austin, TX followed by the National Conference on Tobacco or Health, also in Austin, March 22-24. Several PDA staff will be in attendance at these two conferences. Austin isn’t Italy, but we’ll take it.

See below for a brief description of the posters and presentations that we are involved in. And say hi to Harlan, Julie, Becky, Amy, or Katherine if you see them there!

Harlan, Julie, Becky, Amy, and Katherine are attending the NAQC/NCTOH conferences


Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco

Expanding quitline reach:  Minnesota’s and Oklahoma’s experience with a new service model

Barbara Schillo2, Laura Beebe3, Becky Lien1, Paula Keller2, Amy Kerr1, Paola Klein3, Stephen Gillaspy3, Randi Lachter2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota; 3 University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

[Poster] Both Minnesota (in 2014) and Oklahoma (in 2015) changed cessation service models. The presenters share their experiences including marketing strategies.  This research demonstrates that innovations in service delivery combined with statewide mass media campaigns have the potential to expand reach among tobacco users while achieving effective outcomes.


Offering choices engages more smokeless tobacco users in a quitline

Raymond Boyle2, Paula Keller2, Becky Lien1, Bruce Christiansen3

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota; 3 University of Wisconsin-Madison

[Poster] With the availability of NRT starter kits in 2014, ClearWay Minnesota saw an increase in the number and percent of smokeless tobacco users enrolling in QUITPLAN Services. This study uses Wisconsin quitline participants as a neighboring control to Minnesota and discusses the unintended impact of new services.


Strategic use of media modalities to maximize service volumes: Predictors of a statewide cessation program

Barbara Schillo2, Marietta Dreher2, Andrea Mowery2, Becky Lien1

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota

[Poster] This poster presents a study conducted to predict which media events were associated with an increase in inbound call volumes and web visits to QUITPLAN Services. Results demonstrate that a variety of media approaches work to achieve high levels of service volumes.


North American Quitline Consortium

Real-world application of reach ratios: A tool to monitor quitline reach among priority populations

Becky Lien1, Emily Subialka Nowariak1, Randi Lachter2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota

[Presentation] The Reach Ratio is a simple metric that has not yet been widely adopted by quitlines. This presentation will provide practical information necessary to calculate the metric, and will encourage quitlines to consider assessing the reach of priority populations when they assess overall reach.


National Conference on Tobacco or Health

Treating tobacco dependence through systems change: A process evaluation of three Minnesota health systems

Megan Whittet2, Traci Capesius1Heather Zook1, Paula Keller2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota

[Poster] The purpose of this poster is to add to the evidence base regarding how health systems can make changes to routinely address and treat tobacco use dependence within their patient populations.


Maximizing scarce promotional dollars: Strategic analysis of media tactics to increase service volumes

Marietta Dreher2, Becky Lien1, Barbara Schillo2, Andrea Mowery2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota

[Presentation] This presentation will describe a methodology that identifies the impact different media tactics have on service volumes and how they work to increase service volumes. Analyzing the effectiveness of media tactics can help managers maximize scarce promotional dollars to increase cessation services volumes.


Linking low-SES smokers to cessation services: Key strategies, successes, and lessons learned

Amy Kerr1, Carole Specktor2, Heather Zook1, Emma Ramsbottom Wagner1, Paula Keller2, Lija Greenseid3

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 ClearWay Minnesota; 3 Greenseid Consulting

[Poster] While overall tobacco use rates continue to drop, higher rates persist among people with low-socioeconomic status (SES). ClearWay Minnesota funded 13 Minnesota organizations that serve low-SES tobacco users to connect their clients to existing tobacco cessation services and build organizational capacity to do so. Through semi-structured interviews with key informants from grantee organizations and reviews of grantee reports, the evaluation explored key strategies to connect clients to cessation services, along with successes, challenges and reach. This poster will describe key findings, which can be used by tobacco control practitioners, community-based organizations, and evaluators as they determine the best methods to engage traditionally hard-to-reach populations.


A collaborative effort to implement a statewide bi-directional eReferral system:  Practical experience from Tobacco Free Florida

Julie Rainey1, Jane Parker2, Colin McDonough3, Harlan Luxenberg1

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida; 3 Optum

[Presentation] The presentation will discuss how the development of eReferral systems fit into the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida’s strategic plans, the quitline vendor’s role in the implementation phase, elements of the bi-directional data exchange, how the evaluator extended the quitline referral system for use by the in-person cessation programs, and share evaluation results including the rate of conversion from referral to program enrollment.


Building a web-based application for managing, monitoring, and evaluating a multi-site tobacco cessation program in Florida

Harlan Luxenberg1, Julie Rainey1, Marilyn Leeds3, Jane Parker2

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida; 3 Florida State University

[Poster] The Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida (BTFF) oversees a multi-site tobacco cessation program which provides face-to-face group counseling to over 20,000 tobacco users annually through Florida Area Health and Education Centers (AHECs). In 2014, BTFF asked the evaluator to design and develop a custom web-based program that would improve BTFF’s understanding of how funds were being spent, the programs’ ability to make data-based programmatic decisions, and the evaluators’ ability to provide timely reports. This poster will share how TFFACT has supported the standardization of the AHEC program; improved program operations, reach and efficiency; improved data quality; access to more data for the evaluation and BTFF.


Meeting tobacco users where they are: How Florida built a statewide referral system within employment centers to connect the unemployed with cessation services

Katherine Rehorst1, Elisia Norton2, Anne Betzner1, Julie Rainey1, Jane Parker2, Marilyn Leeds3

1 Professional Data Analysts, Inc.; 2 Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida; 3 Florida State University

[Poster] Florida institutionalized a fax referral process within CareerSource Florida to identify unemployed tobacco users and refer them to phone, online, and in-person cessation services. This session describes the development of the statewide CareerSource referral system, and shares lessons learned from the successes and challenges experienced during implementation. Results from a process and outcome evaluation document the number of CareerSource -generated referrals and program enrollments providing preliminary evidence that non-medical referral sources like CareerSource are competitive with traditional medical referral programs, and have the potential to reach under-served groups and improve access to services.


Posted in General, Presentations

PDA is currently seeking a part-time program evaluation intern for the summer of 2017. It is a 10-week paid internship. We are looking for an upper level undergraduate student or masters-level graduate student who is interested in learning more about and getting more experience in the field of evaluation. For more information about this internship and how to apply, click here.


Posted in Job Openings

In November, Lara Rubinyi joined the PDA team as an Associate Evaluator. Lara received her Master of International Public Affairs degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before joining PDA, Lara worked with [rp] Collective in Kathmandu, Nepal to build healthy, community-focused urban plans. She has experience conducting large-scale research and evaluations on STEM education, child protection, dental services and opioid use, vector-borne disease, climate change, and migration. The common theme of her work has been creating healthier communities through evidence-based practices. She especially loves using both qualitative and quantitative methods to discover what is working and how to make programs work better.

At PDA, Lara will work on several projects including evaluations for the Florida Department of Health’s in-person cessation program and the Hawaii Department of Health’s community grant program.

In her free time, Lara enjoys camping, traveling, learning new instruments, and writing. Her new goal is to visit as many state parks in Minnesota as possible and maybe write a song about it.


Posted in PDA Staff

Emma Ramsbottom Wagner, Associate Evaluator

In May, Emma joined the PDA team as an Associate Evaluator. Emma just received her Master of Arts degree in Evaluation Studies from the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining PDA, Emma served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at the Hispanic Committee of Virginia, spent several years coordinating and developing non-profit programs in the Seattle area, and most recently carried out evaluation projects with Planned Parenthood of MN|ND|SD and Hamline University.

At PDA, Emma will primarily work on evaluating ClearWay MN’s community engagement grantee programs and processes and the Hawaii Department of Health’s statewide tobacco quitline and in-person tobacco cessation community grants program.

Emma is drawn to the facilitative aspects of evaluation work and enjoys collaborating with stakeholders to effectively surface, organize, and respond to their evolving ideas and needs.  She is also enthusiastic about data visualization, and loves incorporating creative elements into her communications and reports.  In her free time, Emma is an increasingly adventurous baker, pop culture nut, and very uncompetitive runner.


Colin Summers, Developer

Colin joined PDA in May as a developer. The main project he is working on is the construction and design of a large software system for the Florida Department of Health for tracking an in-person tobacco cessation program. His current technology focuses are .NET MVC, AngularJS and Microsoft SQL Server.

Colin received his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin – Parkside in 2013. He then moved to the twin cities to work as a Developer at Magenic where he gained experience with a variety of technologies including .NET MVC, Microsoft BizTalk and MongoDB.  There he was recognized as Consultant of the Quarter for Q4 2015 for demonstrating excellent professional communication and technical skills and his ability for quickly mastering new technologies.

Outside of work, Colin enjoys spending time with his family and two dogs. He is busy getting ready for the second addition to the family, another son, expected this October. In his free time, he enjoys cruising in his Subaru WRX, fixing up his Fiat Spider, and playing video games.


Margaret Merrill, Stats Intern

In early June we welcomed Margaret, who has been serving as our Stats Intern this summer. Margaret just received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Statistics from St. Olaf College.

At PDA, Margaret will help with the analysis of data having to do with tobacco cessation and other public health programs. Margaret is interested in data visualization and is excited to spend her summer at PDA. Outside of work Margaret enjoys playing tennis and reading.


Posted in General, PDA Staff

PDA is currently seeking an IT Manager to oversee our infrastructure. The IT Manager will be responsible for effective provisioning, installation, configuration, operation, and maintenance of systems hardware and software and related infrastructure inside our company. We have a laidback and casual atmosphere and are looking for a passionate person who loves computers, servers and technology and is excited about having a leadership role. For more information about this position, qualifications, and how to apply, click here.


Posted in Job Openings

Written by Heather Zook

What is an eReferral?

An electronic referral (eReferral) is a method for electronically sending data between a healthcare provider and an outside health-related agency. eReferrals are integrated into Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, so they are automatically documented in the patient’s medical record.

At PDA, we recently started working with eReferrals in the field of tobacco cessation. If a patient reports tobacco use to their healthcare provider and expresses interest in receiving tobacco cessation support, the eReferral is automatically populated with the patient’s contact information and sent to the tobacco cessation program.

What are the benefits of eReferrals in tobacco cessation?

More referrals: The number of referrals by healthcare providers to tobacco cessation programs has been shown to increase significantly when switching from a fax to eReferral system.1-2

Increased efficiencies: Using eReferrals saves time and money, as healthcare staff no longer need to fill out referral forms by hand. With eReferrals, the tobacco cessation program is directly notified of the referral while the patient is still in the exam room.

Better communication: eReferral systems are bidirectional, which means that the outcome of the referral (e.g. patient enrolled in the program or patient received nicotine replacement therapy) is automatically sent back to the referring provider and documented in the patient’s electronic medical record. This open communication benefits the provider, program staff, and the tobacco user!

Documented Meaningful Use: Implementing eReferrals can help healthcare systems achieve and document the tobacco use EHR Meaningful Use Core Objectives and Clinical Quality Measures.3

How is PDA working with eReferrals?

PDA has configured our PDAExchange automated data processing system to receive eReferrals from an EHR system and then transmit them to a system for tobacco cessation program staff to follow-up with patients. PDAExchange will also transmit outcome data back to the provider about the status of the referral.

To learn more about how quitlines are utilizing eReferrals, check out the North American Quitline Consortium’s resources on electronic quitline referrals.



1 Warner, D. D., Land, T. G., Rodgers, A. B., & Keithly, L. (2012). Integrating tobacco cessation quitlines into health care: Massachusetts, 2002-2011. Preventing Chronic Disease, 9, 1-7.

2 Adsit, R. T., Fox, B. M., Tsiolis, T., Ogland, C., Simerson, M., Vind, L. M.,…Fiore, M. C. (2014). Using the electronic health record to connect primary care patients to evidence-based telephonic tobacco quitline services: a closed-loop demonstration project. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 4, 324-32.

3 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2013). 2014 Clinical Quality Measures adult recommended core measures. Baltimore, MD.


Posted in General, Technology

PDA is currently seeking a Program Evaluator to join our team of evaluators, statisticians, and developers. We are looking for someone who is detail-oriented, a self-starter, and who would be able to contribute to the full range of a client, including developing evaluation plans and logic models, analyzing and interpreting quantitative and qualitative evaluation results, and effectively and efficiently reporting findings to clients and other stakeholders. For more information about this position, qualifications, and how to apply, click here.


Posted in Job Openings

The Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco’s annual conference starts tomorrow and several PDA staff will be there.

Anne is presenting along with our client from the Florida Department of Health on a novel non-medical tobacco cessation referral system, housed within workforce development centers in Florida.  She will report on numbers referred to a statewide cessation program, and quit rates for those referred. The time and location of their presentation is below.

Using employment infrastructure to recruit for statewide cessation programs:  Referrals, enrollments and outcomes.

Anne Betzner, Marilyn Leeds, Jane Parker, Katherine Rehorst, Julie Rainey, & Elisia Norton.

Thurs, Mar 3 @ 11:10am in Chicago Ballroom 8


PDA staff also collaborated with our client Clearway Minnesota on four different poster presentations, which are listed below. If you’re at the conference, stop by and introduce yourself!

Offering consumers choices: Patterns of service selection in a multi-service cessation program

Barbara Schillo, Paula Keller, Becky Lien, Randi Lachter, Amy Kerr, Emily Subialka Nowariak

Thurs, Mar 3 from 11:30am to 1pm

Poster #1-113


Use of tobacco and tobacco cessation services in urban and rural Minnesota

Raymond Boyle, Becky Lien, Michael Amato

Fri, Mar 4 from 11:30am to 1pm

Poster #3-151


Do treatment seeking smokers use ENDS differently than the general population?

Emily Subialka Nowariak, Becky Lien, Michael Amato, Erin O’Gara

Fri, Mar 4 from 5:30 to 7pm

Poster #4-113


NRT starter kits and quit rates: What influences quitting?

Amy Kerr, Paula Keller, Becky Lien, Barbara Schillo, Randi Lachter, Vanessa Kittelson

Fri, Mar 4 from 5:30 to 7pm

Poster #4-147


For more information about the SRNT conference, click here.


Posted in General, Presentations

PDA is currently seeking a full time Senior Evaluator to join our team of program evaluators, statisticians, and developers. We are looking for someone to take on leadership responsibilities for some of our evaluation projects, which are in the areas of tobacco control and chronic disease. For more information about this position, qualifications, and how to apply, click here.

Posted in General, Job Openings

Did you know that if you want to label both the year and the month on the horizontal axis of a line chart that Excel will automatically do that for you? This is what I mean:


I may be late to the party on this one, but I was so excited when I discovered this trick a few years ago, and I wanted to (finally) share the love in case any one else was in the dark about it.

Here’s the problem we were running into. Sometimes in a line chart there were two calendar years represented within the same series. We often used one column in Excel to represent both the month and the year, entering “Jul-2015”, for example. But that resulted in a lot of unnecessary repetition with the year labels, which cluttered the horizontal axis and, frankly, made me twitch.

month and year appears for all horizontal axis labels

Another option we sometimes used was to only include the month in the Excel data, entering “Jul” for example, and then we manually added text boxes to label the years. It took a little more time, but the repetition issue was resolved and we had control over how the labels looked. Definitely an improvement.

only months are automatically added to the horizontal axis; years are manually inserted

But then I discovered that Excel is smarter than I sometimes give it credit for. There is also the option of entering the years in the first column and the months in the second column. Excel will automatically understand that you have two levels of horizontal axis labels and format them as such. Whaaaat?! While you have less control over the look of the labels, the automation is pretty stinkin’ sweet.

months and years automatically added on two different levels of the horizontal axis

How do others approach labeling the years and months in a line chart when there are two calendar years represented within the same series? Or has this function served you in another way with different types of data? I’m sure there are other tricks out there that we don’t know about, so please share!


Posted in Excel, General