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Agile, Data Are Boosting Customer Experience at CMS

Agile teaming and strategizing around data are driving success behind CMS’s eMedicare initiative.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is looking to develop an omni-channel customer experience through its eMedicare initiative, and it’s using Agile processes and developing a data strategy to get there.

CMS Web and Emerging Technologies Group Deputy Director Rachael Horvath spoke about the eMedicare journey the organization has been undergoing since 2018 during an FCW virtual event this week. eMedicare, she said, aims to deliver simple and customized tools and information to current and future Medicare beneficiaries.

“We know that millions more people will be aging into the program over the next several years, and it’s really critical that we work with those that are comfortable to allow them to self-serve online so that the more complicated inquiries and things that people really need help with can be handled by our customer service channels,” Hovarth said.

Hovarth detailed how previous years of Agile adoption have enabled her team to deliver better online tools, such as the redesign of the Medicare Plan Finder tool. CMS also launched a Care Compare tool, which combined and consolidated several legacy tools that help individuals find care facilities for different care settings.

“We have a 10-week cycle, we do two-week sprints, and at the last spring in any program increment is an innovation and planning sprint,” Hovarth said about the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) that her team has taken on to sharpen these digital tools. “We also do sprint demos at the end of … each sprint so that people can see the code that’s being delivered, and then right before our next PI meeting, at the end of the PI, we do a PI demo to show all the code, the working code that’s been written and really demonstrate it online.”

Now that CMS has made progress with tool development with Agile methodologies, Hovarth said that her team is looking toward conceptualizing the tools in terms of personalization and segmentation for the users.

“If you think of those big tools as bricks, we’re really now working on the mortar, like what connects those together, and how do we make sure that there’s a consistent experience?” Hovarth said.

To get to that consistent, omni-channel customer service approach, CMS is working on a data strategy that aims to make data consistent across its channels so that information can be easily shared and that customers can interact with CMS’s tools regardless of the channel they use.

“We are working right now to define a process and do some think pieces around what are the major architectural decisions for data-sharing models that we want to consider, so this is looking at event streaming and how we want to share things, whether it’s one single back end or more of an integration layer that serve the information up,” Hovarth said. “By having the call center, the web and our outreach team sort of all wanting to use that same back end, it really comes down to performance and service levels.”

Hovarth added that CMS is “more than halfway” done with crafting its data strategy for eMedicare, working to “marry that long-term vision with the tactical work we’re doing.” Part of this work also involves following data privacy memoranda from the Office of Management and Budget around health data while also maintaining the Agile matrix teams that have been maintaining CMS’s online tools.

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