National Workgroup on Integration's Governance Guidance Paves the Way for Health and Human Service Collaboration

Article excerpt

The National Workgroup on Integration (NWI) released its Governance Guidance on April 13, which is aimed to assist states and localities in establishing and operating a governance body to implement the integrated vision for health and human services. This guidance represents the collective thinking of the many members of this intra-governmental and public/private workgroup. NWI is a collaboration of state and local health and human service administrators, federal agency partners including leadership from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services/Center for Medicaid, CHIP and Survey & Certification (CMCS), as well as from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), representatives from the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), and sponsoring industry partners, including Accenture, AT&T, CGI, Deloitte, PCG, PSI, and Xerox.

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NWI's foundational document, Bridging the Divide, was developed through consensus with leaders across the country and is grounded in research on the social determinants of health and the health determinants of an individual's social condition. The document described a vision for 21st century health and human service programs of a fully integrated service system operating as a seamless, streamlined information exchange with shared services and coordinated care delivery. Such horizontally integrated systems are customer-focused and result in a modern marketplace experience designed to improve consumer outcomes as well as improve population health over time. Ultimately, they are designed to bend the health and human service cost curve by 2025.

The Governance Guidance emphasizes the need for state and local human service agencies to be a part of the governance body in charge of planning for the modernization of eligibility and enrollment systems, as well as other in formation technology modernization projects. This inclusion is essential in the process of laying the foundation for future planning and implementation of an integrated health and human service system for the 21st century. The NWI vision for integrated health and human services, as carried out by the Governing Body, will help formulate the guiding principles reflected in the development of a modern business model which, in turn, will help inform the system's technology needs. The guidance also highlights the different roles and responsibilities of a governing body in the context of integration; acknowledges the challenges states and localities may encounter, including but not limited to, agency culture, people and planning, federal and state policy barriers, technology, and privacy/confidentiality; and provides concrete action steps that state/local health and human service agencies can take now to establish themselves as permanent members of the Governing Body.

Almost six months after NWI first met in September 2011, new and existing members of the workgroup came together for two days on April 23-24 in Washington, D.C., to discuss nationwide efforts in the horizontal integration of health and human services. Members heard from leaders within CMCS, ACF, and FNS, who reinforced the Administration's commitment to integrating health and human services. …