I recently attended the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) Conference in Austin, Texas. The MMIS conference is an annual event for federal and state HHS agencies to share programmatic and technology initiatives in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP).
While I have attended numerous MMIS conferences in the past, I was both surprised and pleased to hear a shift in messaging throughout various sessions of the conference. The recurring message was that state HHS agencies and the vendor community must shift their paradigm of building standalone legacy systems for each program area and move toward thinking more holistically and cross-cutting in how services are provided to HHS clients.
Though easier said than done, it was music to my ears. As I grew up in an umbrella HHS organization that provided a full array of programs/services and benefits to our state citizens, we often operated in separate silos of program divisions and services, with each focused on the unique programs administered in each standalone division. For those of us who worked in state HHS programs, we know that the citizens of our state are being served by many of these standalone HHS divisions.
For example, one citizen could easily be receiving services from the Medicaid, Social Services, Mental Health, Public Health and Child Care agencies. More often than not, this citizen is tracked in separate siloed legacy systems that don’t interface or speak to each other. Each of these separate legacy systems were originally built to administer a unique program need, which have led us to focus on providing a single service or the issuance of a particular benefit, rather than comprehensive care. It is a challenge in both umbrella HHS organizations as well as those with separate program and service entities; all agencies struggle with crossing over the various programs to be able to treat clients comprehensively. Without integrating across boundaries, how can HHS agencies understand how well they are serving the holistic needs of our citizens?
As I listened to the presentations at the MMIS conference I kept thinking how great it would be if a state HHS Secretary could look at their HHS clients in a more holistic manner, to evaluate program performance and client outcomes and identify service area gaps. A holistic, client-centric view of clients can not only facilitate healthier outcomes, but can bring reliant citizens closer to independence of the HHS system and to self-sufficiency.