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Rethinking Communications: How to Deliver Safety Net Services in the Age of Disruption

Now more than ever, state and local agencies that provide unemployment benefits, health and human services and other social safety net programs are under pressure to modernize communications and the customer experience.

by Quadient / October 15, 2020
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Now more than ever, state and local agencies that provide unemployment benefits, health and human services and other social safety net programs are under pressure to modernize communications and the customer experience. Their clients have urgent needs, yet legacy systems and other challenges jeopardize quick, efficient and compliant delivery of services.

To remain resilient and improve the delivery of Medicaid, housing, food, child welfare and other programs, agencies are modernizing communications across the case management process. At the center of their efforts is a unified customer communications platform that allows staff to more easily create, manage and deliver personalized, compliant communications across print, email, web, SMS and other channels.

One of the most populous states in the U.S. is using this platform to transform eligibility processes. Instead of sending individuals separate print mailings for each safety net program constituents apply for, the state has consolidated eligibility correspondence for multiple assistance programs into one communication. In addition, the state can now exchange correspondence through multiple digital channels, depending on what programs were opted into by the client.

By reducing the time and effort both workers and clients expend and by flexibly adapting to clients’ unique needs, solutions like this help organizations enhance the user experience, increase client participation, achieve administrative efficiencies and promote positive results. By streamlining and expediting access to these services, modern communications help improve outcomes for individuals, families and communities.

Navigating a Maze of Complexity

Besides contending with a surge in cases related to the pandemic, recession and recent natural disasters, safety net agencies face ongoing communication challenges.

Urgent needs and overwhelmed clients. In times of crisis, it can be overwhelming — if not impossible — to visit a program office, fill out and mail forms, keep appointments, report changes in status and engage in other communications required to receive benefits. In addition, if clients do not have a fixed address, print mail may never reach them as they move from one place to another. These barriers prevent clients from receiving services in a timely manner and interfere with documentation processes that help organizations track clients and meet compliance and audit requirements.

Legacy systems and overburdened employees. On the case management side, high caseloads, staffing shortages and laborious content creation processes contribute to communication and documentation lapses, potential violations of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other privacy regulations, employee burnout and more. Many government agencies work with inflexible mainframe systems that require programming expertise just to make simple updates to text in a printed document. While contact centers are an essential part of the communications pipeline for many agencies, they too are overwhelmed, often answering routine questions that could be automated or delivered via less costly channels.

Communicating with the Right User, on the Right Channel, in the Right Way

To ensure clients receive and respond to communications in a timely manner, organizations need to use the communication channels that make the most sense for any given activity or individual. An integrated, omni-channel communications platform enables this by connecting to and unifying a wide variety of content and data sources across multiple formats and channels. A unified communications platform:

Improves services delivery. Individuals can engage with the agency in the ways most convenient to them. Using digital channels, clients can complete, sign and submit applications and other forms on the device of their choice; receive and respond to text messages related to appointment reminders and deadlines; and request and obtain information at their convenience. Digital correspondence also allows case managers to more easily track and verify their clients’ receipt of documents, forms and other communications. For more information on unified, omnichannel communications and how to get started, click here.

Empowers case workers and reduces reliance on IT. Authorized business users can quickly update, change or create content on their own by using pre-defined templates and content modules that do not require help from IT or development teams. They can also easily create fillable PDF or web-based forms clients can use to submit program applications and other documents.

Reduces compliance risk and increases agility. Compliance, legal and case management teams can review and collaborate on content throughout the communications creation and approval process. Centralized content management and pre-populated templates that lock down governed content help safeguard compliance and expedite content creation. Organizations can share, route, approve and track changes with a full audit trail.

A health and human services organization on the East Coast is using its omni-channel communications platform to support HIPAA compliance when it mails printed documents. To ensure a patient’s private information is never accidentally sent to the wrong recipient, the organization adds a barcode to each page, which are then read by an electronic “inserter” and matched to the correct envelope and address.

Tracks the constituent’s journey. By mapping and analyzing the different interaction points of a typical client’s journey, organizations can better provide the right content at the right time via the best channel — and in doing so, help improve overall outcomes. Journey mapping also supports regulatory and client compliance by enabling organizations to track delivery of communications. This allows government organizations to determine the best channel to deliver communications and to evaluate if the messages are clear and easy to understand. For instance, if a particular message is sent out and it generates a lot of calls to the call center with a specific question, the agency may need to clarify the communication.

Getting Started

While the services offered by safety net agencies have a unique urgency that some other types of government services do not, any agency that interacts heavily with its constituents must modernize communications in order to improve the user experience for employees and the public, run more leanly and resiliently, and ensure compliance with internal and external regulations.

To start on the path to modernization, organizations can assess existing communications, decide how they want to improve, identify the channels they want to implement and determine whether their current infrastructure supports the solutions they seek. Instead of tackling every aspect of their communications process at once, organizations can narrow their focus to quick wins that encourage adoption and provide opportunities to refine change management. A modern customer communications solution will not require you to replace your backend system. It will pull existing data from your legacy system, use business rules to place the correct content on the correspondence and deliver the correspondence using the preferred delivery channel — ultimately resulting in a positive experience for the constituent.

To learn more about delivering personalized, compliant constituent communications across all channels from one centralized platform, contact Quadient.

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