Health and human services agencies' growing interest in mobility solutions
This year's APHSA IT Solutions Management (ISM) conference - the premier health and human services technology conference where states (and more and more counties) come to see solutions for a variety of programs like eligibility, child welfare, and child support - was very interesting.
Health and human services space is undergoing a significant transformation driven by a number of imperatives including increasing customer demands and service expectations, regulatory requirements (like modularity), and evolving technologies (automation, big data analytics etc.). Many state agencies discussed how they are leveraging modular, component based approaches to modernize their systems, adopting agile methodologies, and using social, mobile, analytics and cloud solutions to improve outcomes.
One trend that took me by surprise, though, was the number of county governments looking for mobility solutions.
There has been a growing focus on mobility at the state level, especially in the area of child welfare, where case workers are generally on the go. I think the market has been assuming that the mobility capabilities would be developed at the state level, funded through federal sources such as ACF or CMS, and trickle down to the county level. This is logical: counties generally have the least investment dollars.
It seems, however, that the counties don't want to (or cannot afford to) wait for the trickle down to happen. This trend is occurring because the counties have an urgent need: their budgets are shrinking (as always) and lack of mobile technology is making what was once difficult, such as documenting site visits, into impossible.
Counties are willing to find the money to bring in the technology that can help them meet the needs in the future. To put it another way, they can't wait for the trickle down because they are approaching a standstill trying to work the same old way.
The take away here is that technology is becoming foundational and moving beyond as "a way to increase efficiency" to "the only way programs can be administered in the future." States need to accelerate adoption of new technology and "trickle down" faster or face a grass roots organic growth that would be very difficult to accommodate and integrate in the future.