The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) prototyped an internal tool for organizing cleared statements and other information in order to provide more effective communications to the public through improved response time to reporters.
Emma Sandoe (Project Lead), CMS
Keya Joy-Bush, CMS
Rachel Maisler, CMS
Tony Salters, CMS
Project Lead’s Approving Supervisor:
Brian Cook, Director, Media Relations Group, Office of Communications, CMS
The press response strategy within HHS is often individually responsive and does not follow a coordinated and streamlined process; rather, statements are approved for individual reporters ad hoc and lost shortly after response to the reporter. This process relies on individual staff members to maintain personal databases of previously cleared statements and knowledge of reporters past interest in subject matter. It relies heavily on maintenance of email archives and does not capture the work of the staff. When there is a change in staffing, this knowledge is often lost.
This project used several models of pilot testing. First, the team tested a variety of platforms to store and track press statements. They tested each site for functionality, familiarity, and ease of use. Once a prototype was settled the team released the platform in waves in order to watch and correct for usage and errors in design. The team also explored models of encouraging staff to utilize the platform through incentives, rewards, and directives.
While simply building an application for storing and retrieving reporter inquiries is relatively straight forward, designing it into the workflow of a fast-paced office environment is challenging. Therefore, this team is using lean methodologies and light-weight technologies to iterate towards a small but viable tool that can get buy-in from their office staff before scaling.
To monitor whether their effort has a positive impact on their stated objective, the team has identified the following key performance indicators:
Time (hours) spent between report inquiry and official response to the inquiry
Attitudes of the press officers (via survey)
The team saw a 52% decrease in the response time for reporter inquiries and a generally positive view from staff of the design. In order to continue the testing and implementation, CMS would like to see increased utilization throughout the department achieved through greater exploration of this workflow model with communications specialists across HHS that are working directly with media.
HHS Ignite is the IDEA Lab’s incubator for Department staff with ideas on how to modernize government. Selected teams are introduced to startup methodologies for problem identification and project implementation. In the entrepreneurial spirit, Ignite projects are iterative, their impacts measurable, and their solutions scalable. This is one of 13 projects that participated in the beta year of Ignite which ran from June 2013 to February 2014.