A new report from Deloitte suggests that re-orienting human services agencies toward outcomes can save significant time and money. Historically, human services agencies have undertaken improvement initiatives with the goal of making benefits transactions more efficient, but the report suggests that looking at outcomes for beneficiaries can cut duplicative processes and save budget dollars.
According to the report, there are three core recommendations for shifting an organization toward an outcomes-based model. The first of these recommendations suggests promoting self-service through automation. Authors suggest changing the “front door” of human services delivery into something technology-based that collects the required beneficiary information once instead of requiring individuals to come to the office multiple times. Automation can reduce duplicative data entry for multiple services and also cut back on administrative time for caseworkers.
The second recommendation suggests redesigning programs so that they fit the needs of unique customer segments. Work readiness programs, for example, can be updated to reflect the job prospects of today versus the generalized training common to these programs before the tech revolution.
Finally, a third recommendation looks at enabling the widespread use of analytics technology to understand and anticipate the needs of individuals in the benefits system.
“What’s often missing, particularly in eligibility programs, is any consideration of the extent to which these quantitative transactions have anything to do with qualitative changes in people’s lives. If an agency responds to 98 percent of its child-abuse hotline calls within 24 hours, what about the 2 percent the agency didn’t get to—were those children safe? And what percentage of calls to which the agency responded were eventually “screened out,” found to be based on unfounded allegations?” report authors write.
Utilizing new technology and agile development principles can ensure that caseworkers are able to see the whole picture of an individual’s life and prescribe the right kind of help at the right time.
Much of the report advocates what Big IT has been pushing in human services for at least the past five years – slight modernizations and greater automation. The benefits of an outcomes-based model for human services are obvious, especially if they include coordinated care across the community and not just within a specific benefit program. However, some things haven’t changed – each of these vendors offers their own human services ecosystem, with the potential for vendor lock-in and laborious changes if a municipality or state opts to leave the ecosystem. Caveat Emptor.