North County Video Interviewing: San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency

Article excerpt

Throughout the past year, the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) has been collecting stories of local innovations through our Raise the Locals Voice initiative. Below is one such story that shares how the use of technology can help local agencies find cost savings while simultaneously improving client outcomes.

Through its Video Interviewing Program, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) has been able to improve access to health coverage and other critical services to populations that face transportation and other barriers to access.

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In San Diego County, approximately 450,000 rural residents face significant travel barriers to being effectively evaluated for eligibility for county services. In the past this would have required county staff to travel to see the client, or as a result, the client would not have been evaluated and therefore would not receive services. Today, through the use of video interviewing technology and internal partnerships with community-based services, those residents can receive the benefits they are eligible for without stretching the county's limited resources.

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Targeted populations include, but are not limited to, pregnant women, migrant farm workers, clients who are homeless, residents of Battered Women's Shelters and transitional housing, and rural clients who face transportation barriers such as residents of the Native American Reservations. Within local community clinics or other easy-to-reach locations, residents can participate in an interactive interview process with county staff to determine their eligibility for various public programs.

Although considerable savings nave been achieved by eliminating county travel to outstation locations, there have been other benefits as a result of implementing the video interviewing process, including that approximately 84 percent of applicants are approved the same day as the interview. This expedites the process for community partners to draw down funding for services, increasing their ability to serve more people. Community partners, who see great value in this initiative, have helped expand the initiative from one community site offering access to a single public benefit program, to 11 community sites offering access to multiple public benefits.

To successfully implement the project, staff coordinated with Medi-Cal (Medicaid) Program and CalFresh (SNAP) Program staff to confirm their ability to conduct video interviews in lieu of face-to-face sessions. The County Compliance Officer was consulted to address confidentiality issues and guidelines were established in the business process. Additionally, the Information Technology Manager was consulted to ensure that appropriate security measures were established.

There have been both cost savings and positive results for clients as a result of the video interviewing program in addition to the following:

* In 2011, San Diego achieved a 79 percent increase in clients served over the prior year. …