How Wisconsin Provides Better Service

September 30, 2021 by Lily Rexing

How Wisconsin Provides Better Service

PBCs, or packaged business capabilities, give governments the power to make low-risk, minimally disruptive modernization improvements. These mix-and-match applications offer portability and interoperability in budget-friendly packages. Although PBCs are relatively small building blocks, they are having a big impact on agencies and their constituents.

Better IRIS Service

Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services utilizes PBCs in a variety of programs. One particular PBC supports data analysis and reporting for the IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct) Medicaid home- and community-based services waiver program, which assists nearly 22,000 Wisconsin residents who are elderly or have functional and developmental disabilities.

The PBC is part of the Wisconsin Self-Directed IT System (WISITS), which streamlines eligibility reviews and IRIS participant enrollment activities. Prior to WISITS, acceptance into IRIS took as long as six months. “There’s a lot of onboarding and background checks that happen to validate that the providers are trustworthy and meet all the compliance requirements,” said Jordan Humpal, section manager of enterprise architecture and integration support for DHS.

The new PBC streamlines eligibility reviews and participant enrollment activities, and IRIS clients are now seeing their services and reimbursements arriving within two or three months. The PBC was created using a web-based platform that offers a modular, interoperable architecture for modernizing legacy applications in state and local government. The platform lets IT staff tailor and update backend capabilities quickly when changes are needed. In addition, it helps ensure the IRIS program’s integrity by providing advanced reporting and detailed audit capabilities. “We can make sure that when participants submit claims and receive services, they’re doing so legally and not abusing their funds and budgets,” Humpal explained. “We’re able to track all their activity, including the events they were performing and what records within the system they’ve accessed.”

The platform also serves to streamline data exchanges and reports with other bureaus and divisions. Should a stakeholder need information, the IT department can answer a request in under an hour, “without having to develop a complex, back-end solution for exchanging data among multiple state systems and internal or external parties,” Humpal noted.

The Cloud Component

Choosing a platform hosted in the cloud was critical considerations for Wisconsin in capitalizing on the benefits of PBCs. To run the PBC necessary for determining IRIS eligibility, Wisconsin utilizes the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud. This allows the state to efficiently scale the application as the program continues to grow. Because AWS defines a formal release process, the state benefits from a repeatable process for deployments. The cloud further provides enhanced resiliency and safeguards against data loss or data corruption. Finally, a cloud environment provides self-service capabilities enabling contractors to help the state manage and optimize its applications.

Modernizing Bureau of Children’s Services

Wisconsin DHS also successfully uses PBCs to improve the eligibility process for Katie Beckett Medicaid, a program that enables children with long-term disabilities or complex medical needs to receive medical care at home instead of an outside facility. Wisconsin DHS used the same platform noted above to streamline the program’s eligibility process in early 2020. The state previously used a manual, paper-based process that collected and distributed client eligibility information “through snail mail and carrier pigeon,” quipped Deborah Rathermel, director of Wisconsin’s Bureau of Children’s Services.

Paper forms were used to gather large volumes of intake information, which was then stored in a lightweight database program. The old approach “was fraught with risk — every piece of the process had to work perfectly for a child to get from ‘ask’ to an answer regarding eligibility,” Rathermel said. Today, a new electronic portal supports field staff who simply upload the necessary information and any relevant notes directly into the system during the application process. Once there, the information is available to any authorized staff member, so questions about the status of an application or an appeal of an eligibility decision can be answered easily and quickly.

Wisconsin is a good illustration of the significant impact PBCs can have, both for government staff and constituents. Any modernization will take time. PBC improvements can ease that transition, providing significant value along the way.

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