Data-Smart Leaders: HHS-Connect

By Data-Smart City Solutions • October 15, 2013

During the convening of the Urban Policy Advisory Group in August, city leaders spoke with us about how their cities are using data to improve their governance. Kristin Misner, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, spoke with us about how data sharing is improving service delivery in New York Cty.
HHS-Connect is an initiative that we launched about four or five years ago with the purpose of connecting siloed agency data sets. We have a vision of a client walking into, for example, a homeless shelter and not having to reapply your information if you had already een, let’s say, to the public welfare office or to the administration for children’s services. The hope is to both improve the quality of the experience of the customer or the person who is interfacing with the agency system, but also to improve the experience of the workers, who have to collect all this data.

A really good example is the public welfare agency has a huge data warehouse where they collect birth certificates, they collect a lot of different documents and information on a client. But they didn’t share it, they used it within their own system. Then that same person may enter the homeless system and has to submit their birth certificate, and they don’t have a copy. It seems a little challenging that you have the government already has your birth certificate, but two different agencies aren’t able to talk to each other. What HHS-Connect does, it takes these data systems and pulls them together in the back end and creates a portal, which we call Workers’ Portal, so the workers can then access that information from different agencies.

As you can imagine, there are challenges and questions around sharing the data, what level of access do different workers and agencies get. Especially if you think about medical data, or mental health data, which there are a lot of regulations around. So each worker has a different clearance level, so we’ve created case studies to better understand: what does this worker need the data for, or how are they going to use it? There are different levels of access for different types of employees.

We also have another unit called CIDI, our Center for Data Intelligence, and that unit is trying to look at things like, are there predictive indicators for people who enter the homeless system, are there predictive indicators about youth who are going to succeed when they come out of foster care, are there certain clients or individuals who touch multiple city systems and are there ways to tell in advance who those individuals might be? So we do have a separate data unit that is looking at all these different data sets and trying to come up with some analytics to better assess who’s going to need services and when.

From a customer’s perspective it makes it a lot easier to apply for public benefits. And we’re moving this concept of one portal, one face. And so you should be able to interact with one agency and have that information shared with multiple different agencies, and not create this expectation that every time you go in you have to reiterate the same information, give the same story. On the flip side, we fully expect that it’s improving the quality of case work. Our government employees are developing because they have now more information, more access to the story about what’s going on with the lives of this individual.