The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the single biggest change in public sector benefits programs since President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. The passage of the ACA has changed our country – in extremely positive ways. The Affordable Care Act lowered the eligibility rules for public services, and as a result more people than ever are eligible. Now, we must maximize on this opportunity.

The future of social services in California requires modernizing service delivery models to meet this massive increase in demand. This necessitates a change in infrastructure and operational processes that allow for this shift. My company, Intelegy, works with many county partners to help them evolve with this ever changing landscape. Over the last 15 years, I think we’ve gained a unique vantage point of how public sector organizations can draw inspirations and strategies from unlikely sources, including private sector businesses and … baseball. 

As an avid baseball fan, I can’t help but draw a line of comparison between the Oakland A’s in the early 2000s and the post-Affordable Care Act Health and Human Services landscape. Most people know the story, but for those who don’t or could use a refresher: Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane realized that anecdotal information or tribal knowledge of players was a poor source of information to predict player performance. He quickly discovered that rigorous statistical analysis is much better. I think the exact same concept can be applied to optimize Health and Human Services Agencies as they work to meet increased demand resulting from the Affordable Care Act.

Putting Baseball Trivia (and Data) to Work

You don’t need to be an expert in sabermetrics to learn from Billy Beane. The basic principal is that organizing, planning and predicting based on gut feel does not work in baseball. It also doesn’t work in social services delivery.

An organization can only manage something that it can measure. With that in mind, many private sector organizations started to use data gathering and analysis programs to optimize business strategy. Public sector organizations are now starting to make the same move. And like Billy Beane – Health and Human Services organizations can do this with little increase to the overall budget.

The first step in data driven performance management is to identify the key metrics to capture. These metrics should be figures and data that your organization cares about and directly impact success. For instance, operational data that measures efficiency, client experience data that tells you how well you are serving your client, program outcome data that demonstrates your organizations outcomes against policy mandates and financial data that tracks budgets and allocations.

The second step is to understand the data to move toward making quality, strategic decisions based on real facts. This can help an organization move away from making decisions based on instinct and past practices, and be better positioned to make informed decisions for improved services to ultimately improve the client experience. With workflow and strategy based on real time data, Health and Human Service agencies can organize time and resources more efficiently to serve their clients with speed, efficiency and dignity.

Looking to the Future

The culture of the Health and Human Services delivery at the county level in California is changing extremely rapidly, and I am inspired to continue this revolution. The Affordable Care Act is the catalyst for much of this change. As policies and technologies continue to progress over the next several years, government agencies should strive to keep pace with them. Leaders in social services can draw upon strategies from the private sector, including from my favorite pastime – baseball. Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s provides a fun example to illustrate the point, but the fact is this: data driven management practices will improve social services and keep the dignity of the client experience intact.

Vail Dutto is the Founder and CEO of InTelegy, a company that collaborates with health and human services agencies to modernize and streamline their client service delivery models. She is a season ticket holder to the San Francisco Giants.