Mobile services

Perspectives

Mobile apps for digital government and HHS programs

New technology in human services provides benefits during COVID-19

Having thrown millions of people out of work, the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented demand on health and human services (HHS) agencies. Large numbers of people suddenly require help with food, housing, health care, and other essentials. At the same time, COVID-19 has disrupted agency operations, creating short-term overhead while processes, policies, and technologies are adapted to enable agency work amid state shutdowns and social distancing. To give individuals and families quick and efficient access to benefit programs, HHS agencies need to expand their mobile self-service channels so citizens can track and manage benefits without visiting an office, traveling to access printing or mailing services, or sending physical forms that stress agency operations.

Mobile app and digital channels provide increased benefits to HHS programs in the wake of COVID-19

One of the challenges HHS agencies face today involves how citizens access services. While sheltering at home, citizens are contacting agencies by phone, increasing traffic to call centers. The result is often long wait times and, in some cases, demand outpacing the ability of agencies to respond, resulting in increased application backlog and challenges with maintaining processing timeliness requirements.

HHS agencies persevered through increased workload at the start of the pandemic while also trying to adjust to working from home. As program integrity requirements are reintroduced, and with larger overall client bases, similar surges in workload can be expected as states reopen.

Call centers are experiencing increased volume as individuals call with questions about their benefits and quickly evolving COVID-19 policies. In-person document processing capabilities may also be struggling with increased volume on top of challenges associated with performing this in-person (by necessity) work with social distancing protocols (as document center processing can’t be done from home).

As policies and processes continue to change through the course of the pandemic, HHS agencies must also keep employees and citizens up-to-date on new requirements, creating additional strain on already stressed agencies.

Some of the challenges are specific to the start of the pandemic, while others will likely continue for months to come or if states must reenact shelter-in-place policies with a second wave of COVID-19. Additionally, new challenges can be expected as agencies gradually return to the new normal (for example, additional surges in document verifications that will be required as program integrity policies are reinstated).

Mobile-enabled self-service apps can be implemented quickly and better enable individuals to manage their benefits remotely, bringing agencies cost savings and operational efficiencies. With help from mobile self-service apps, HHS agencies can respond to the COVID-19 crisis, assist citizens through the recovery, and thrive longer-term post-pandemic through the adoption of new operational norms (see figure 1). Here’s how these services can promote better operations through those three phases.

Authors

Jackie Barr is a product manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Digital Experience practice. She specializes in working across design and development disciplines to deliver mobile and web products for human services clients. She can be reached at jabarr@deloitte.com.

Sean Mullins consults in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Services Transformation practice. His teams help improve customer experiences with government through digital technologies and human centered design techniques. He can be reached at smullins@deloitte.com.

Jordan Schneidman is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Government & Public Services practice. He has more than 15 years of experience leading technology transformation programs for human services organizations. Throughout his career, Jordan has led the innovation of solutions and offerings in the areas of human-centered design, service delivery modernization, and digital technologies. He can be reached at jschneidman@deloitte.com.

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