How health and human services agencies are individualizing community care

A recent study found that health and human services agencies can digitize and personalize their customer experiences to serve communities faster, better, and more efficiently.

Every year, health and human service (HHS) agencies undergo the monumental task of helping to keep the nearly 330 million people in the United States healthy, employed, and informed about all of the government programs available to them. And while they undertake this massive mission with limited budget and even more limited time, identifying individual needs is often too granular of a demand for such a large-scale mission. Because not only do individual needs vary by person and change over time, but serving those needs typically requires a massive amount of coordination, bureaucratic navigation, and time commitment.

But if an HHS agency can crack the code for personalizing service delivery for all, it can make each customer experience more efficient, reduce the resources needed for internal processes, and enrich community outcomes as a whole. Personalization promises to build better awareness of programs, higher enrollment in local offerings, and more engagement in life-saving and life-changing services.

Only with the right technologies, all working together, is personalization possible at the scale required for state and local governments. To learn how this would be possible, ndp | analytics, a strategic economic and communication research firm, conducted a study identifying critical areas that could be improved with the help of Adobe Experience Cloud, a collection of Adobe customer experience solutions powered by Adobe Experience Platform. They used data from the Texas Health and Human Services (Texas HHS) agency to do it. And the findings were incredible.

The research by ndp | analytics uncovered the potential for nearly $248 million in annual savings for Texas HHS — and future savings are only expected to increase from there. Combined with the potential for more informed citizens and efficiencies for both the community and agencies involved, the potential positive impacts are endless.

Study methodology

Using Texas HHS Commission as a case study (and to quantify findings), ndp | analytics researched how Adobe Experience Cloud could impact overall administrative costs for HHS agencies and improve health outcomes for community members.

The study centered on the idea that HHS agencies in state and local governments across the nation need ways to advance their mission and maximize the impact of their budget. With nearly all government services, it’s challenging to spread awareness about each program and its benefits and to use the limited budget and employee time to complete that outreach, field questions, and serve the community. This study aimed at finding solutions to these critical challenges.

The study first identified activities that could be improved with support from Adobe Experience Cloud solutions. Researchers then collected findings from official and third-party sources around the economic and social impacts of technology on administrative costs, HHS program participation, and health outcomes. Then, they developed a formula to estimate the population that was most likely to engage with customer experience solutions on web, mobile, or apps and take action. And finally, the researchers used official data collected from Texas HHS to calculate potential benefits.

HHS agency study shows surprising, high-impact results

Through the findings in the study, Texas HHS — with the right capabilities in place — wouldn’t just save internal staff and the public time, effort, and money. The impacts to specific HHS programs would also be high, including improved customer outcomes.

The report found that Texas HHS could transform services by:

Out of the entire community, there are two categories of people who stand to benefit the most from the digital transformation of HHS agencies:

In both cases, there’s an opportunity for agencies to create a more equitable experience by streamlining website navigation, enrollment processes, and communications. Not only would this benefit the everyday public, but it would especially help agencies reach individuals who are experiencing extreme poverty, are less tech-savvy, have language barriers, or have disabilities. All can benefit from a less confusing site and communication infrastructure — which can be achieved with mature digital solutions.

The report findings suggest that customer experience technology solutions can support Texas HHS agencies in four key ways.

Streamline enrollment in Medicaid and SNAP programs

With the help of customer experience solutions, Texas HHS agencies can streamline citizen enrollment in both Medicaid and SNAP programs. Both programs make a tremendous difference for communities in need, reducing poverty, providing better access to quality health care, and increasing food security for millions of Texans. Greater access to enrollment would greatly improve each program’s participation levels and their impact in the community. And it’s possible using online services and transitioning paper and in-person enrollments to a digital experience.

Expanding access to a digital enrollment experience could also mean ensuring enrollment is available on any device. Even in cases where a traditional mailing address isn't consistent or ideal, a mobile phone or tablet follows citizens wherever they go. By creating an enrollment process tailored to the customer's device of choice rather than a static webpage, access and accessibility expands.

But to truly improve the efficiency and convenience of enrollment in both SNAP and Medicaid programs, customer experience solutions can help Texas HHS agencies use analytics and data to understand how citizens get to the enrollment stage and then drop off, how language barriers might impact specific enrollment sites, and how comparing enrollment between zip codes can inform how different communities interact with each agency. All of this data can influence the engagement plan for each geography and uncover specific needs that are unique to each population.

→ $108 million benefit for Medicaid

The ndp | analytics report cited as much as $108 million in savings for Medicaid if customer experience solutions helped just 5% of eligible citizens gain coverage.

→ $50 million benefit for SNAP

For SNAP, because every $1 of SNAP spending generates a $0.54 in spending, customer experience solutions could help create a nearly $50 million economic benefit for the entire state.

Key takeaway: A better enrollment experience for each citizen doesn’t just expand care, it could redirect state resources to other programs, help more people, and boost economic spending, elevating local businesses and the local economy.

Increase participation in preventative health efforts and valuable skill-building.

HHS agencies’ effectiveness hinges on citizen participation — both during enrollment and throughout a customer’s time with the service. If programs like Medicaid and SNAP could better communicate available benefits and connect citizens with the resources they need, it could make a massive difference in quality of life for millions — and sometimes, a life-or-death difference. Yet it’s a challenge to communicate relevant enrollment information and send timely reminders to such a large number of people, and do so in a way that’s tailored to each individual’s likely needs.

These agencies need a way to send automated notifications and reminders for actions like health appointments, flu shots, employment and training (E&T) program enrollment, available courses, health care recommendations, and even available fruit and vegetable benefits at the farmer’s market. And ndp I analytics found that all this would be possible using customer experience solutions to bridge the connections between citizens and programs — and keep those citizens up to speed. Technology now makes it possible to do everything from creating awareness campaigns to letting citizens schedule a ride to the doctor’s office.

Since every program has critical data on each enrollee — their age, residence, family members, and more — personalized service recommendations (such as diabetes prevention at a specific age or WIC information for pregnant women covered by Medicaid) can be made right away, in real time. And individuals’ privacy is protected, while their data comes in handy personalizing their experience and recommendations.

The potential for impact is vast. For instance, for Medicaid, increased participation in preventive health efforts could cut down on ER use for primary care and help citizens detect health issues like obesity in time to create a plan to combat them. And for SNAP, whose E&T (employment and training) program participation is often low and underutilized, automated reminders could not only dramatically improve response rates but ultimately help citizens find long-term jobs and develop the skills needed for them.

Automated reminders and personalized communications also stand to improve participation in programs like “Double Up Food Bucks,” a SNAP initiative that matches SNAP dollars spent at farmers’ markets on fruits and vegetables. With customer experience solutions, Texas HHS could improve awareness about the program and share information about the benefits to both the community and local vendors through measures like direct marketing, email reminders, geo-targeted push notifications, and more.

These types of communications and notifications can make a world of a difference for citizens through smaller programs, too, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program aids Texas citizens who need basic goods like food, clothing, and household items. Reminders and better communication about their resources and benefits would improve participation in the program and relief in low-income families’ lives.

→ $52 million benefit for Medicaid

With the help of customer experience solutions, ndp | analytics reports that Texas HHS agencies could create health cost savings and improvements in productivity to the tune of $52 million, just for Medicaid participation. To achieve that savings, the agencies would only need to help 4% more Texans receive flu vaccinations and reduce obesity by Medicaid beneficiaries by 2%.

$17 million benefit for SNAP

In addition, the study estimates a $17 million benefit for SNAP resources if Texas HHS agencies employed customer experience solutions to improve participation in E&T programs and the “Double Up Food Bucks” initiative by just 4%.

→ $161,000 benefit for TANF

Citizens that receive TANF benefits are required to also participate in E&T programs. Just a 4% increase in participation would result in at least $161,000 in savings for the state and help Texas citizens find meaningful, long-term employment.

Key takeaway: By ensuring each citizen receives all of the benefits they’re eligible for, increased participation in measures like preventative health efforts, healthy food access, and long-term employment skills add up to better outcomes for individuals and communities, too. Even the state comes out ahead, saving resources and streamlining efforts.

Reduce volume of calls and paperwork

To reduce the volume of calls and paperwork, predictive AI and customer journey analytics can help Texas HHS agencies get the right message to the right person at the right time. This means making it easier for beneficiaries to find information on the agency’s website, get answers to their questions, and navigate the application process as easily as possible.

Case workers at every agency are already overloaded with cases and need ways to inform citizens faster, create efficiencies for themselves, and save time in general. Specifically, they don’t have time to field phone calls for the same question, over and over all day. One relevant example is open enrollment in December every year — if case workers find themselves stuck on the phone answering enrollment date questions every day, they won’t have time to do their jobs and help the community.

Reducing the volume of calls and paperwork is about predicting people’s needs. Understanding milestones can help. With customer experience solutions, automated messages remind citizens about important dates or events before they call in to ask questions and tie up phone lines.

Critical steps include measuring how the community interacts with each program online — such as how a website contributes to the mission of the agency — and identifying problem areas while testing new experiences to help citizens be more self-sufficient. Agencies can hone in on issues such as drop-offs in forms or applications through the power of analytics, and they can address those problems swiftly.

→ $16 million benefit for Medicaid

The study predicts that if customer experience solutions could help just 12% of current adult Medicaid recipients and avoid three calls per year, Texas HHS agencies could save nearly $7 million. Plus, with a reduction in Medicaid churn — by communicating about re-enrollment dates and improving the application process — could further generate nearly $9 million administrative cost savings.

→ $2 million benefit for SNAP

By helping citizens find information quickly online and complete application processes faster — deterring phone calls for dates and other questions — customer experience solutions could dramatically reduce case workers’ wasted time on the phone and processing paperwork. By helping just 12% of SNAP households avoid three calls per year, Texas HHS agencies could save $2 million.

Key takeaway: Creating a better digital experience for each citizen and program creates a more self-sufficient community. With customer experience solutions, HHS agencies can streamline online applications, information, and more to reduce internal paperwork and phone calls with citizens.

Decrease application review times.

Whether it’s reducing time internally to get benefits out to citizens faster or helping citizens re-enroll or get information in real time, timeliness is critical for government programs. Mandates add another factor — dictating specific dates or schedules to send out notices to citizens when it’s time to re-enroll or recertify benefits.

It's critical for agencies to identify the best way to connect with their communities, understanding individual communication preferences at scale and using analytics and segmentation to predict their needs so they can meet them on the most effective channel. For instance, mail might not work for people experiencing homelessness — text or email may be better options for them.

To reduce application review times, each agency must start at the beginning of the citizen process and be more proactive about citizen communication. If someone falls off a program — failing to recertify or reenroll in time — it’s far more costly for the state to reprocess that person back into the program than it is to keep them enrolled.

→ $1 million benefit for Medicaid
Medicaid currently faces high administrative costs associated with application reviews, but customer experience solutions could reduce review time by 2 hours on 12% of untimely Medicaid application reviews per year. ndp | analytics predicts an associated $1 million cost savings for Texas.

→ $3 million benefit for SNAP

Applying the same savings of 2 hours for 12% of untimely SNAP applications per year, Texas HHS should see another $3 million in savings.

Key takeaway: Optimizing citizen communication — opting for digital messages instead of delayed or outdated direct mail — doesn’t just improve the citizen experience and increase participation in all programs, but also reduces review times for agency staff.

Modernizing your HHS agency: Good for your community — and your bottom line

The end goal of every HHS agency is to improve their community’s outcomes, both for individuals and families, and to help people reach self-sufficiency faster.

The case study for the digitization of Texas HHS demonstrates that by identifying potential beneficiaries, improving the enrollment process, increasing participation in preventative measures, reducing call volume, and automating reminders for application deadlines, HHS agencies can expect to see not only significant cost savings — nearly $250 million in this use case — but also an increase in positive health and employment outcomes for individuals and families.

Ultimately, customer experience solutions can help HHS agencies around the nation maximize the spend of every dollar in their budget, increase the awareness of every program available to their communities, and, most importantly, improve the self-sufficiency of every citizen they serve.

Adobe can help

We know how critical digital transformation is and what it takes to succeed. We’re partnering with HHS agencies across the globe to digitally transform their operations with customer experience solutions like digital enrollment and onboarding, customer journey analytics, and outreach and engagement. With these comprehensive market-leading solutions all together in Adobe Experience Cloud, agencies can expand their efforts to create positive change through more personalized customer experiences.

Products like Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target can help agencies deliver personalized experiences based on data insights from citizens’ engagements. Meanwhile, Adobe Experience Manager Forms, Adobe Experience Manager Sites, and Adobe Campaign — which can each fully integrate with each other — can support efforts to increase awareness, engagement, and build better experiences via web, mobile, and apps.

Bring your agency into a powerful new chapter with expanded effectiveness and impact. With the right solutions already integrated, plus Adobe’s understanding of HHS agencies’ unique needs, the future is closer than you think.

Learn more about how Adobe can help government agencies.

About the author: After joining Adobe’s Public Sector team in 2016, Megan Atchley served as a founding member of Adobe’s Health & Human Services practice. As the current Director of HHS, Megan helps agencies adapt to an ever-changing digital landscape, improve engagement with their clients, and effectively use data to connect digital initiatives to outcomes.

Megan’s dedication is fueled by her belief in government’s capacity to create and maintain safe, healthy, and equitable communities. She brings her experience across public policy, community organizing, and health advocacy to help HHS agencies modernize while keeping client outcomes the center of focus.