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The original item was published from 5/8/2023 3:02:00 PM to 5/9/2023 2:55:59 PM.

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Human Services Case Studies

Posted on: May 8, 2023

[ARCHIVED] “HSD Dynamics” Expands Access to Programs, Increases Efficiency

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Abstract

HSD Dynamics is a comprehensive information system designed to manage all programs and services provided by the Maricopa County Human Services Department (HSD), benefiting clients, program partners, and employees. The system benefits the clients served in that it has replaced a traditional offline paper system with a modernized, cloud-based client portal available online 24/7/365. This has greatly expanded access to Maricopa County residents and allows for a more efficient, simplified application process that can quickly determine eligibility for supported programs. HSD Dynamics is a powerful tool for implementing programmatic changes and adapting to evolving needs and funding sources.

Problem Addressed by HSD Dynamics

Before implementing HSD Dynamics, the Maricopa County HSD faced a challenge with its traditional offline paper system for managing client applications and management information systems (MIS). The old system created barriers to access for Maricopa County residents, and the application process was inefficient, time-consuming, and often involved redundant information requests. Additionally, the legacy system was difficult to update to meet the evolving needs and funding sources of the HSD. However, with the implementation of HSD Dynamics, a comprehensive information system, the HSD was able to modernize its client application and MIS. The cloud-based client portal, available online 24/7/365, expanded access to services and streamlined the application process, enabling quick determination of eligibility for supported programs. HSD Dynamics also provides a powerful tool for implementing programmatic changes and adapting to the HSD's evolving needs and funding sources. HSD Dynamics is a necessary technological advancement that helps facilitate an environment that is conducive to achieving the Mission, Vision, and Values of the Maricopa County HSD:

Mission: The Maricopa County Human Services Department is the cornerstone for the delivery of equitable, inclusive, and comprehensive services for those experiencing adversity. We engage and partner with individuals, families, and the community in building resiliency and well-being in Maricopa County.

Vision: The Maricopa County Human Services Department will be the collective leader for human services systems change using evidence-based approaches to ensure all community members have opportunities to thrive.

Values: Collaboration, Equity, Innovation, Integrity, Leadership

Program Description

Imagine all the technological advances that have happened in the last two decades. We can perform banking, order groceries, pay for food delivery and even hail a ride all from a simple tap of the screen on our smartphones using wireless internet service and digital payments. We can query a powerful search engine and get millions of answers within fractions of a second. Through our smart TV, we can watch endless hours of content on YouTube, and Netflix and even play music from online streaming platforms — all without a cable subscription.

Like many other organizations, the Maricopa County HSD is making its own technological advances. With the dependence on data to make decisions and the overall transition to a digital, internet-based economy where people expect to conduct business 24/7 from their mobile devices, the time was right for HSD to upgrade its information technology system. The new system, called HSD Dynamics, is an integrated, modern platform helping to usher in a new era of capabilities and connectedness for both employees and the public.

HSD Dynamics is a software that HSD employees directly integrate with. Clients have access to this software through a specialized interface, known as the client portal. HSD partners or providers will have access to HSD Dynamics through a customized interface known as the Partner Portal. Both the Client and Partner Portals operate similarly, in the sense that these portals are based on easy-to-navigate webpages. Partners will have accounts to log in and access information about shared clients and information that is relevant to the partner/provider. The Partner portal plays an incredibly important role in the sharing of information. HSD Dynamics is designed to be a secure system that strictly follows data governance principles. As such, the Partner portal allows partners to see only information that is relevant to the specific partner/provider. Because of the implementation of the partner portal, approved details about clients can be quickly accessed by HSD and its partners. Any crisis that clients are facing can be quickly addressed through the cooperation of HSD and partners via the implementation of technology.

HSD prioritizes comprehensive service delivery for our residents and HSD Dynamics has made a major impact in this area. To improve customer service, secure data, and build resiliency in the HSD’s digital footprint, the decentralized patchwork legacy information technology approach began to be phased out in March 2021 when the Community Services Division was the first to implement HSD Dynamics. The new system was used to address an unprecedented demand in the community for emergency rental and utility assistance. To put the words “unprecedented demand” into perspective, consider that in a typical year, HSD was providing approximately $5–6 million in rent and utility assistance. In response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has approved the use of three separate funding streams for rent and utility assistance totaling almost $120 million. Right around the time HSD Dynamics was implemented in Community Services, on April 1, 2021, we began processing $41.6 million of federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) 1.0. The system proved invaluable at capturing data and was implemented in the Workforce Development Division in December 2021. Throughout the summer of 2022, HSD Dynamics will be rolled out for the remaining HSD Divisions.

A New Economic Reality

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new economic reality, with many people affected by the downturn in the economy. HSD Dynamic was partially created in response to this new reality to help those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

Many people lost their jobs or have had their income reduced due to COVID-19, and as a result, they are struggling to make ends meet. HSD Dynamics facilitated the client-facing process of applying for available programs. At the same time, it helped to provide a more efficient internal process and automated a variety of financial control to ensure that people did not exploit the programs. These measures helped to ensure that eligible Maricopa County residents had a new way to access the financial resources they needed to survive during these difficult times, within program limits and program guidelines.

Built with strict workflows that align with program and finance regulations, HSD Dynamics helps maximize available program funding to help as many households as possible. Moreover, the intensive data analytics that exists through HSD Dynamics foster an environment of transparency through. Leadership can generate reports as needed to ensure that funds are being appropriately managed and that governmental compliance is being met. Because of the in-depth reporting capabilities of HSD Dynamics, audits can be performed quickly and easily, with little notice. The transparency of HSD Dynamics builds trust with partners/providers, other counties, cities, state, and federal government.

Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

HSD Dynamics is a program that is available to support all residents in achieving their fullest potential, ensuring that all individuals have access to the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.

One of the key ways that HSD Dynamics advances diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities is by working to address existing racial and socioeconomic disparities. For example, the program provides targeted support to underserved communities, including low-income individuals and communities. By focusing on these communities, HSD Dynamics is helping to level the playing field and ensure that everyone has the chance to thrive.

HSD Dynamics is playing an important role in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities by helping to ensure that all residents have access to the resources and support they need.

Program Cost

Operating Costs: Operating costs include expenses such as staff salaries, training, professional development, and ongoing program maintenance and evaluation.

Capital Costs: Capital costs include expenses related to the program's infrastructure and equipment, such as the cost of purchasing the software, and hardware – if needed. Additionally, there may be costs associated with contracting with outside vendors for services such as data analysis, data storage, staff training, and programming.

To replicate the program, a county would need to incur similar operating and capital costs, which could vary depending on the size and scope of the program and the specific needs of the community it serves. This might include expenses such as hiring staff and purchasing equipment and software. Additionally, there may be costs associated with adapting the program to meet the needs of the county, as well as ongoing expenses related to program maintenance and evaluation. It is important for counties considering replicating the program to carefully assess their needs and resources to ensure that they can afford to invest in the program and provide the necessary support for its ongoing success.

HSD Dynamics has been heavily modified from an out-of-the-box state to be incredibly innovative. HSD Dynamics is hosted in a specialized Government Community Cloud (GCC) that adheres to strict security policies for governmental data. Moreover, HSD Dynamics integrates with various partnering Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to send and receive confidential records. These integrations are versatile and allow Maricopa County HSD to partner with a variety of organizations and interface directly with partnering agency software and databases. Future development opportunities exist to allow for further automation of tedious and difficult tasks. As the Microsoft Power Platform continues to advance rapidly in the realm of artificial intelligence, there are continued opportunities to incorporate virtual agents that can assist with client requests and instantaneous speeds.

Results/Success of the Program

HSD Dynamics has been successful in meeting its objectives by providing Maricopa County HSD with a powerful information system that allows for the collection and analysis of data in an efficient and user-friendly way. The system integrates with Microsoft Power BI, which creates data visualizations and reports that show the effectiveness of programs and services. By collecting data on clients' demographics, income, addresses, employment, and other relevant information, HSD Dynamics helps to identify those in need of assistance and determine what policies may need to be adjusted or created to better serve the community. HSD Dynamics was designed to be a future-proof software, which means that it can grow at the current pace of exponential technology growth, resulting in cost savings for Maricopa County HSD. The system has removed barriers for both employees and clients, simplifying processes and creating a holistic experience. Client records are easily accessible to all HSD employees, and key performance indicators can be created and evaluated to ensure that HSD staff are performing at an acceptable standard. Overall, HSD Dynamics has been successful in providing Maricopa County HSD with a comprehensive and efficient information system to serve its clients and make data-driven decisions.

It has been said, “Data is the new oil”. This phrase implies that the collection of common data elements can be aggregated in such a way that they become knowledge. HSD Dynamics is used specifically to collect and determine relationships in data that may have never been analyzed in legacy software. HSD Dynamics integrates with Microsoft Power BI, a tool that can create data visualization and reports that show the effectiveness of programs and services. By understanding our clients, their demographics, income, addresses, employment, and other relevant information, we can understand who in our community needs assistance. HSD is then able to use the aggregate data found in HSD Dynamics to create knowledge on program and service requirements. Thus, leading to an understanding as to what policies may need to be adjusted/created to best serve our communities.

Technology continues to advance at an exponential rate. Computers become faster, smaller, and more portable. Similarly, the Internet continues to become faster and more widely available. Artificial intelligence and automation through machine learning are seemingly becoming the current most rapidly growing technology. All this to say, HSD Dynamics is an information system that can grow at the current pace of exponential growth of technology. Because HSD Dynamics was designed to be a future-proof software, there will be enormous cost savings from having to develop new software on an ongoing basis for Maricopa County HSD. Whereas other software systems require large development teams, HSD Dynamics was designed in a low/no-code solution. Yielding a system that can be easily modified and receives the latest updates from Microsoft.

HSD Dynamics was created to remove barriers for both employees and clients. For employees, processes have been simplified to create a holistic process that is similar across the various neighborhoods at Maricopa County HSD. Employees are able quickly to learn intuitive software. As employees in one HSD division use the software to assist clients, they are creating records for the specific clients they are assisting. These client records exist for all other HSD employees that may assist these same clients in the future. Because of this, employees can save time by reviewing/updating existing client records when assisting these clients with future requests.

HSD Dynamics is built with data collection and aggregation as a top priority. Not only are client details collected and analyzed within Dynamics, but so are the metrics of employee performance. HSD Dynamics offers powerful dashboards and views that managers can utilize to review employee performance. Key performance indicators can be created and evaluated on teams to ensure that the HSD staff are performing at an acceptable standard.

Outcomes

HSD Dynamics has transformed the way clients interact with the program and allows for more efficient and accurate data collection. By incorporating Microsoft's Power Automate, HSD Dynamics has eliminated the tedious and time-consuming tasks that would typically be done manually by HSD employees. The automation of prescreen eligibility checks has created a streamlined process for clients to apply for programs and services without having to enter the same information multiple times, thus increasing participation rates. Furthermore, HSD employees are now able to assist more clients due to the time saved from manual verification of eligibility. The simple-to-use client portal provides clients with easy access to details about all programs and services offered by HSD. HSD Dynamics' future-proof software design allows for enormous cost savings and can easily adapt to the exponential growth of technology. In summary, the success of HSD Dynamics in meeting its objectives, its use of automation to simplify processes, and its potential for future growth and adaptation all justify its recognition as a recipient of the 2023 Achievement Award.

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