CMS Embraces Human-Centered Design to Streamline Citizen Services and Employee Workflows

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have found themselves on the front lines of the pandemic response, providing not only access to health care to more than 140 million citizens, but also data and advice related to transmission rates and administration of vaccines. Managing this has required changes to the way the agency works and delivers services, with a particular focus on customer experience.

Serving citizens is the fundamental mandate of the federal government, and in many cases, citizens are…

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have found themselves on the front lines of the pandemic response, providing not only access to health care to more than 140 million citizens, but also data and advice related to transmission rates and administration of vaccines. Managing this has required changes to the way the agency works and delivers services, with a particular focus on customer experience.

Serving citizens is the core mandate of the federal government, and in many cases citizens are trying to access these services during some of the most vulnerable and stressful times in their lives. Yet it is often a cumbersome process, weighed down by bureaucratic minutiae and inefficient, redundant processes.

This has become even more evident during the pandemic, as the number of citizens trying to access services for medical or economic reasons has increased dramatically. This prompted the White House and Office of Management and Budget to make customer experience a top priority, issuing both an executive order directing agencies to improve CX and a memo offering guidance on way to do it.

Adopting a human-centered design approach at CMS

At the same time, the pandemic has also forced a paradigm shift in how work is done, necessitating review and changes to back-office processes that enable federal employees to deliver services to citizens. In many cases, these two initiatives have become inextricably linked, both through the new technologies that make these improvements possible and through the shifts in mindset required to embrace them, said Bobby Saxon, deputy chief information officer at CMS.

“Our almost exclusive interaction with our customers is through healthcare.gov. And there was a lot of work to do there, not just up front but at the back,” Saxon said. “The focus was on the backend, as it was our digital front door for our customers. We’ve done a lot of work on boosting stability and performance, and we’ve migrated to the cloud to give us a lot more additional features. »

Now stabilized, the back-end of the system is working well, he said. Much of CMS’s Office of Information and Technology is now focused on the front-end experience, specifically providing human-centered design solutions to make access to services more efficient and streamlined.

“That front end of the client is where we still spend a lot of time,” Saxon said. To address a human-centered design approach, the teams had many interactions with customers, both directly and through surveys.

“Once they visit our sites, we get feedback from them. How can we do more? How can we help you? And also how can we help you on multiple devices? ” he said. “When we built our front ends most of the time it was for an environment where it was mostly computer based. But now, with more and more people using tablets or mobile phones, it’s becoming more and more essential that we provide a holistic and total experience across all devices.”

Another area of ​​interest are CMS call centers. Why? Because citizens can become frustrated with the digital process and choose to speak to someone on the phone, Saxon said. CMS therefore wants to make this digital process as user-friendly as possible to reduce the potential for frustration and therefore the volume of calls reaching call center staff. The IT team is specifically looking to improve the mobile experience to reduce the need for customers to call the branch, he said.

Migrate identity management to the cloud

On the back-end, the agency is also moving its identity management solutions from a data center-based system to a cloud-based identity management service.

The move should give the agency additional flexibility and capabilities, Saxon. “We also started doing an internal analysis of all our identity management systems because we have several dozen different components at CMS,” he said.

Additionally, most of these components have their own budgets and teams and therefore different identity management tools. “From a business perspective, how do we help them? We are currently conducting an internal evaluation of the nearly 10 identity management systems we have at CMS. How can we meet the needs of an internal customer with the enterprise solution we have in place while giving them the flexibility they want – and need – to manage their component business? »

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