The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) want to modernize, but are being held back by a vestige of the 20th century–clunky, outdated technology platforms.

Wil Carroll is a principal and the Medicaid enterprise solution leader at Deloitte. (Photo: Deloitte)

In its recent report, Deloitte dug into IT modernization for CMS and state Medicaid agencies–with a specific focus on Internet of Things (IoT) and other smart technologies. Deloitte found that smart technologies could help state Medicaid agencies promote independent living, improve customer service, and get healthcare to the patients that need it the most.

But a major technology overhaul is easier said than done, so Deloitte offered up a five step plan to help Medicaid agencies move into the 21st century. MeriTalk spoke with Wil Carroll, principal and Medicaid enterprise solution leader, Deloitte, to get his thoughts on how agencies can help Medicaid get smart.

Mod Squad

Modular is key, says Deloitte. When it comes to why Medicaid agencies are falling behind in smart tech adoption, Deloitte points to their IT infrastructure–which it calls “large, hard-coded, and monolithic.”

Updating and improving the current systems is an expensive and time consuming task. So, upgrades go undone.

However, that’s changing.

Medicaid agencies are beginning to request and implement modular, interoperable replacement solutions. This paves the way for more tech vendors to participate in the Medicaid system, which will open up greater technical flexibility.

When agencies undergo platform modernization, Deloitte recommends states look for platforms with open application programming interfaces. Additionally, the report suggests moving Medicaid data to the cloud.

Step by Step

States shouldn’t bite off more than they can chew. Initial smart technology projects should be small and simple.

“States should move incrementally,” Carroll said. “I’ve seen states attempt a big-bang replacement and it is so difficult. On the other hand, I’ve seen a tremendous amount of success in an incremental replacement model.”

In terms of what technology agencies should deploy first, Carroll suggests going mobile.

“I believe over 70 percent of Medicaid recipients have access to a smart phone,” he explained. “Despite that, it’s significantly under used in the Medicaid space. Medicaid customers have already adopted the technology, and there are existing apps and capabilities built out in the healthcare market than can be leveraged in the Medicaid space.”

Of course, the goal of starting small is to grow into bigger projects. Once smart technologies have further matured and agencies have successful track records under their belts, agencies can tackle larger, more complex projects.

Channel Your Inner Architect 

Medicaid agencies must be future focused as they launch new smart technologies. One way to keep things on track is to develop a blueprint. Not only does this help agencies stay focused on how new technologies will perform discreet projects, but it also makes sure that the new technologies can communicate with one another.

“Trying to create a cohesive plan after deployments are under way is a huge challenge,” Carroll said. “Instead an agency needs to start at the very beginning by laying out a blueprint that covers how they will handle interoperability, security, and data governance–among other things. Then the agency can have something set in stone that everyone has to conform to moving forward.”

Harness Your Data

Government funding is getting slashed left and right, and every agency is looking to decrease costs. But modernizing massive IT infrastructures requires significant upfront investment. In order to prove that the funding was worth it and secure funding for future projects, Medicaid agencies will need to show a strong ROI. As agencies modernize, they need to build in good data collection and strong analytics.

“A smart Medicaid system could help programs make use of the vast amounts of data they are already collecting, and combine forces with other health-related entities to better serve their populations,” said Carroll.

Keep an Eye on the Market

Smart technology deployment isn’t a one-and-done operation. Instead, agencies should be continually monitoring for new technologies that can improve agency services and efficiencies.

That means keeping an eye on the market and being willing to test new technologies regularly.

In terms of if the technology has the greatest possibility to help Medicaid, Carroll is very sure in his answer.

“Oh, IoT, for sure,” Carroll said. “I don’t think we can fully understand how much IoT and access to the data those devices generate will change how healthcare is delivered.”

Overhauling legacy systems is never easy, but Deloitte’s five step plan gives Medicaid agencies a solid jumping off point.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs