HHS IT savings opportunity expiring soon

24 January 2014 | Kevin Dolan, Industry Marketing Development Director, Microsoft Public Sector and Human Services, United States

There is broad consensus across federal and state/local health and human services (HHS) agencies of the urgent need to improve HHS program delivery and outcomes. And modernizing technology systems is vital to achieving that goal.

The good news is that U.S. HHS agencies have the opportunity to benefit from unprecedented and not likely to be repeated federal financial support to further their IT modernization efforts. Recently the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) released a whitepaper to help HHS agencies accelerate the adoption of modern technologies and enable more efficient and effective care delivery across HHS programs – while saving millions in state tax dollars.

The whitepaper provides guidance on how HHS agencies can take advantage of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) A-87 Cost Allocation Exception. This is a temporary exception to the traditional complex cost allocation approach (Circular A-87) to pay for IT systems related to eligibility and enrollment functions. It translates into HHS programs being able to share a wide range of IT components needed by Medicaid that can also be used by other (non-Medicaid) programs—at  significantly less cost to them than they would have had to pay prior to this policy change. But it expires in less than two years – on December 31, 2015. 

The whitepaper provides background information on what the A-87 exception is, the constraints that need to be kept in mind when making use of it, and how HHS agencies can utilize the exception to meet their goals of improving program performance and achieving meaningful outcomes. It lists a number of business services and components that HHS agencies should consider when modernizing their systems. The ones I feel are most critical to success are:

  • Enterprise service bus (ESB) for connecting systems.
  • Master client index service for identity matching and correlation, which is crucial when integrating client records across program siloes.
  • Business intelligence service for analytics to help identify at-risk clients and evaluate outcomes of delivered services.
  • Case management/coordination service requisite for coordinating client care across an increasingly mobile and specialized care community.

Our Microsoft Connected HHS Framework (CHHS) is based on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and can help HHS agencies implement the above as well as many more business services and components that are required for a connected and client-centered HHS model. 

Through our CHHS alliance of partners, HHS agencies can procure and implement proven solutions using familiar Microsoft technologies to help them take advantage of the A-87 exception before it expires.

The table below provides an overview of these HHS solutions mapped to the three levels of services and components outlined in the APHSA whitepaper with rough estimates of implementation time.

Core Platform
Relative Timeframe
Level 1:  Front Door
Document Imaging/Digitalization of Case Records
3–6 months
Client Portals
SharePoint, Dynamics CRM
3 months
SharePoint, Yammer, LYNC, O365
3 months
Smartphones, Tablets
3–6 months
Level 2: Foundational Systems
Case Management
Dynamics CRM
12-18 months
Rules Engine
SQL Server
3 months
Enterprise Service Bus
BizTalk Server
3 months
Level 3:  Heart & Soul
Identity Management
SQL Server
3 months
Master Client Index
SQL Server
3 months
Data Warehouse
SQL Server, Windows Azure, PDW
6 months

I encourage HHS agency business and technical leaders to read the APHSA whitepaper for details on the A-87 exception and recommendations on how to take advantage of it. I also encourage them to follow up with APHSA for program specifics.

The industry is facing an incredible opportunity with the A-87 exception to propel IT modernization and improve HHS program delivery and citizen and patient outcomes. Microsoft and our partners are ready to help HHS agencies take advantage of this opportunity. Please contact us via email or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter to learn more. Additionally, you can also contact your local Microsoft account executive or Microsoft partner.

Kevin Dolan
Industry Marketing Development Director, Microsoft Public Sector and Human Services, United States

Microsoft in Health Blog

About the Author

Kevin Dolan | Industry Marketing Development Director, Microsoft Public Sector and Human Services, United States

Kevin Dolan currently serves as Industry Marketing Development Director for Microsoft’s Public Sector Health and Human Services (HHS) Industry Unit and is responsible... Read more