Team members from the North Dakota Information Technology (NDIT) Customer Success Office and partners at our state agencies have a shared goal – empower our Team ND members to better support the citizen. In the case of Health and Human Services Policy and System Support (PaSS) Team, they provide IT support to staff who get critical services to our most vulnerable residents. North Dakota’s safety net services such as TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid improve the lives of people, families, and children, by providing them with support in what may be their most dire time of need.
These essential programs have an application process that Policy and Assistance Support Supervisor Sarah Goethe’s PaSS team supports. Without technology enabling these services, the process would be long and arduous for the service to the citizen. Despite having IT support, teams of county staff were getting applications into the system in an antiquated fashion, by sending emails via Outlook.
Approximately 350 employees were working with emails ‘for as long as I can remember’ Goethe said. Imagine a system with vital information that needs to be processed to help the most vulnerable, and it requires workers to email back and forth.
“We would track in Lotus Notes, so we would have to take all the information from the email or the call and copy it over to Lotus Notes,” she said. “A few years ago, we stopped using Lotus Notes, because it just became too much duplication of effort.”
“We were doing this painstaking process, and we realized if we were going to function as an effective, efficient Help Desk, for county workers and state staff, that we needed a better system.”
Enter the Customer Success Office. They received an Initiative Intake request for a solution to get the pertinent information processed in a timely manner. They examined the issues and recognized a way that the program could be integrating into existing technology for a more citizen-focused experience.
Project Manager Kevin Janes understood that the existing process was far from an efficient way to operate and helped Goethe and her team come up with a technology solution that would provide a platform to process applications and entry work more efficiently. Goethe’s team began working with Enterprise Services Manager Ryan Huber and Janes to build this and established what our expectations were.
They met with Janes to establish the scope of work – what the team wanted to see, what information they needed to capture, and what they wanted to see on the back end. A list was established and NDIT provided a template of the form for a visual of what it would look like. Meetings were set to tweak it, until it was exactly what was needed the meet the agency’s asks. NDIT spent time making adjustments based on the feedback. On Oct. 1, approximately one year after the request was submitted, HHS went live and turned off the Outlook process.
Goethe said while they are still in the learning phase, the staff and her IT support team, they are getting it figured out and applying best practices. So far, it’s been working well.
I’m getting so much positive input, the form is easy, they know what we need. On our end, it simplifies things. Because in outlook, there were no parameters or ways to require information and we would have to dig through that information, causing it to take a lot longer. This form says we need the case, we want the pertinent information, it really hones them in on providing the information we need.
“I was talking to the team, and we didn’t have one request come in that was missing information that we needed” because they have the form stating what we needed. Previously to this, as you can imagine, there were constant back-and-forth replies in Outlook; missing case numbers, we wouldn’t know what the client needs or what program they were working in. Now, it’s impossible for them to not provide that because its’ right on the list. We’ve made it simple and easy to use.”
The advantage to the citizen is the quick turnaround time. The have features in the system that allow the staff to identify and expedite urgent situations that they’re working on, so if someone has a medical need or needs assistance quickly, those requests are visible in our dashboard and stand out to us.
Whereas before, those submissions may have been buried among hundreds of emails, now they are immediately identified. Sarah’s team can grab them and get the processed with high priority, Goethe said. Immediate medical needs that are expedited urgent requests, such as when individuals are standing in a pharmacy trying to fill medication, or have a hospital bill going to collections, or need to pay a heating bill in the winter, and time is of the essence, are in the dashboard metrics and can be prioritized effectively.
Business Analyst Manager Julie Arp said, “One of the use cases for the expedited SNAP is that we can get this done so much quicker now. What used to take three days can now be processed faster. Often, we can get the money transferred to their card and they can get to the grocery store the next morning.”
“The culmination of these efforts resulted in the citizens getting their benefits sooner, and it saves a significant amount of labor required, and frustration, on the processing end,” Arp said.
Goethe said it also has the added benefit of making her staffs’ work visible, so she is able to adjust their workload from her purview as a supervisor. “Now I can see their tickets and what they are working on and get the info as to what is taking their time or be able to give input on their cases,” she said. “And my team can see their work and efforts - what they’ve accomplished.”
350 county staff
13 IT Help Desk team members
In the first 2 MONTHS: 3,000 tickets closed from a total of 3,253
“Those are fantastic results,” Arp said.
Goethe says the platform has made the business end even more interactive with the staff that PaSS supports. It enables them to reach out, comment in the system, get real-time feedback and data that allows the flow of ideas on what will make the system even more user-friendly and helpful. Her team tracks those changes and uses it to make additions that will create an ideal state within the system.
Goethe spent many years as part of this staff – the county economic assistance eligibility workers. The county eligibility staff members process the requests that come in for assistance. Goethe said she knows the tough end they have, getting the phone calls constantly, when someone needs help. ”The quicker we can help them saves them time, calls, and a lot of hardship on their end processing these applications,” she said.
When asked what these staff members are like, those who work with the public on the front lines to provide these essential services; meeting with the public, setting up their case information, walking through the process and providing them with the information on services that they can utilize to help them in their situation, Goethe replied, “They are some of the strongest, most dedicated people I have worked with.”
A great example of how technology can Empower People, Improve Lives, and Inspire Success!