Information from paper forms entered into laptop

Two states overhaul IT to boost social services

The health and human services departments of Arkansas and South Carolina are joining a growing list of states seeking to overhaul the IT infrastructure that supports citizen services, scrapping older systems for cloud-based technologies and tools that offer big data analytics.

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Human Services are looking to transform an IT infrastructure composed of more than 30 discrete systems in an aging architecture, according to department CIO Dick Wyatt.

The department is beginning an enterprise modernization initiative with a service-oriented architecture to fully integrate all of the department’s programs, and relevant programs from other departments, into one re-useable and scalable platform. The new system will support a wide array of the state’s social programs, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Over time, the state plans to integrate social programs across multiple agencies.

The department has 10 different divisions that blend into each other. For instance, children in the juvenile justice system might also be foster children or might have parents enrolled in SNAP, Amy Webb, Human Services’ director of communications, told GCN. “We are a large entity with well over a million clients that we serve every year.”

An integrated infrastructure will allow the different systems to communicate. “People won’t have to enter new data for a person whose information is in another system,” Webb said.  Plus, the new infrastructure will expand the department’s online presence, giving citizens another way to access information. And analytic tools will enhance program integrity efforts, helping the department to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse. "We want to become an agency that makes policy decisions based on data,” she said.

The Human Services Department will implement the IBM Cúram Social Program Management Platform, an industry-specific solution with built-in subject matter expertise. The state is also deploying IBM’s Cognos business intelligence software, Tivoli security solutions, DB2 database, the Infosphere information integration platform and Rational agile software development capabilities.  All the software will run on IBM Power Systems. 

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services is replacing its current Medicaid eligibility system, moving from a largely paper-based approach to a more open, automated platform. The South Carolina Medicaid program serves nearly 1 million citizens. By replacing state’s eligibility system, South Carolina officials hope to improve access to citizens, offering around-the-clock online self-service. The move also will enhance support for the mobile and community-based workforce. 

To get vital services to those who need them, officials also plan to integrate the state’s Medicaid eligibility system with the federally-run health insurance marketplace.

“Our current manual paper-driven approach limits flexibility in our processes and impacts speed and consistency,” John Supra, deputy director and chief information officer for SCDHHS, said in a statement.  “We expect the new system to provide us a platform to improve our eligibility performance and be able to more quickly and cost-effectively respond to future changes to the Medicaid programs,” Supra said.

IBM Cúram is the main component of the new eligibility system, which will be supported and hosted by Clemson University. The Health and Human Service Department, Clemson and IBM are collaborating to develop an open, hybrid cloud environment that makes the best use of the state’s existing investments, officials said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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