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State Health & Human Services (HHS) Programs Grapple with COVID-19 while Focusing on New Technologies for the Future

Dec 10, 2020, 18:30 PM

Washington, D.C. – Health and Human Services (HHS) leaders across the U.S. faced enormous challenges this year brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as they continued to embrace digital transformation to improve how they serve and interact with their communities, according to new research from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the leading trade association for the global information technology industry.

CompTIA’s State of State Health & Human Services (HHS) Technology Programs is an annual research initiative based on a survey of state and local HHS thought leaders relative to agency technology issues, challenges, trends, and perspectives.

The report is spearheaded by CompTIA’s Health & Human Services Technology Committee, in partnership with the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA).

With the dynamically changing nature of HHS work, the survey topics are reevaluated each year for relevancy as well as to identify other emerging topics to assess. This year’s major areas include:

  • Disaster Responsiveness & Business Continuity
  • Service Delivery Modernization/Transformation
  • Emerging Technology Trends
  • Modularity
  • Data and Analysis

“This was a challenging year for HHS agencies around the nation and the results of this survey provide important insights into how these dedicated professionals are managing their organizations and offers valuable perspectives on how they are leveraging technology to create greater efficiencies and expand consumer access to services in these unique times,” said Jordan Kroll, Director, Public Sector at CompTIA.

“This report offers valuable insights on the shifts and innovative approaches health and human services leaders have advanced during this unprecedented year and illuminates the role that information technology plays in building a modern and responsive system that can nimbly adapt to ensure families and communities have the critical supports they need to weather the storm,” said Ann Flagg, Senior Director of Policy and Practice, APHSA.

Disaster Responsiveness & Business Continuity

Addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic became the top initiative for state HHS agencies in 2021 with 61% of people pointing to it -- overtaking modernizing eligibility systems efforts, which was reposted at 41%.

Almost all (93%) of state HHS leaders said they would enable more remote workers because of the COVID-19 pandemic and 65% said they will eliminate or reduce “face-to-face” service delivery. The majority (61%) of respondents reported that they have increased collaboration with their government partners, which indicates that agencies are looking for creative and innovative ways to operate in this new normal.

Service Delivery Modernization/Transformation

Budget constraints remained the top barrier impacting the achievement of agency modernization goals

Staffing challenges continue within state health and human services agencies, with budgetary restrictions/hiring freezes due to COVID-19 being the top concern for more than 70% of those surveyed, a shift from last year’s top challenge of offering competitive compensation.

Emerging Technology Trends

For emerging technologies, 57% of respondents indicated remote work capability and business continuity as most impactful for the next three years, while artificial intelligence/machine learning and chatbots declines significantly this year, each under 10% compared to more than 50% each last year.

Modularity

Modularity continues to gain traction at the state level with nearly 80% of agencies saying they are in the early stages of adoption, compared to 71% in 2019, but only 14% are reporting a mature adoption stage.

Data and Analysis

Data sharing continues to be ad-hoc, bilateral, and reciprocal for state HHS agencies, with 77% of people surveyed reporting that data sharing happens organically rather than by mandate or legal requirement, but 11% are reporting broad sharing, a significant increase from 2019.

Cloud remains the top implementation priority for data analytics with 65% of state HHS agencies planning to implement it in the next 12 months, and 44% saying they are more inclined to pursue cloud solutions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CompTIA’s “State of State Health & Human Services (HHS) Technology Programs” is based on an annual survey of HHS agency CIO and program directors across all 50 states. The results are shared nationally for the benefit of HHS agencies. The complete report is available here.