Data sharing is something that government agencies are aware of, and some recognize it as a priority. However, there are varying degrees of urgency depending on the specific concerns of each municipality and state. Data sharing at the state government level means better collaboration, more informed decision making for the communities the state manages, and a proactive rather than reactive process of governing. There are hurdles that all state agencies must overcome, and one of the first is making certain that all agencies have the right personnel in place to help collect, digitize, and share information with state databases. Another challenge is making sure that data is ready for consumption by other agencies.
How Do State Governments Overcome the Challenges of Data Sharing?
Look to States Who Have Innovated and Have an Effective Data Sharing Plan in Place
Missouri has piloted a data sharing program that has been in effect long enough to provide measurable results with regard to the impact on the government. For Missouri’s Departments of Health and Senior Services, Mental Health, and Social Services, data sharing has provided a reduction of hospital use by Medicaid program participants by 20 percent in 2015 as well as reducing emergency room visits by the same group by 12 percent. Data sharing among Missouri agencies has created a more effective healthcare experience for these participants, saving approximately $8 million annually, according to governing.com.
A data sharing process like the one Missouri has created does not come together overnight. Sharing data within the healthcare field comes with many regulations, privacy concerns, and legal issues that must be taken into consideration, as is true for all government agencies dealing with sensitive data. Learning from Missouri’s successes and setbacks provides agencies in other states more insight into the resources they will need to build effective state government data sharing processes.
Texas is one of the latest states to adopt and enact a data sharing system. Statewide Data Coordinator Ed Kelly took on this project with the Department of Information Resources, believing that the change would not only enhance Texas agencies’ data collection but also to the overall cooperative culture of Texas agencies. His approach included meeting with state agencies across the state, which gave him an overview of where each agency stood with data collection and storage. The information he received allowed him to identify each agency’s progress toward active participation in the State of Texas data sharing community. Through this process, Kelly has facilitated connections among agencies; for example, the Texas Veterans Commission and the state Department of Agriculture found common interests through these meetings.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to state data management and sharing. Learning from the challenges and successes of other states provides a clear benefit to state governments launching their own data sharing efforts.
Choose the Right Agencies to Include in the Process First
Data sharing and collection is a long-term process that will integrate agencies across the state government landscape over time. Certain questions can help state government technology leadership identify the best course of action:
- Which agencies would benefit the most from data sharing, and which will show results first?
- What is the value of data sharing solutions for the various government agencies?
- Which agencies will be most strongly impacted by this solution, and how will those results be measured?
When data sharing processes are put into place, enacting a dedicated effort to track the effect of the changes from day one can help states to clearly measure their progress over time. Just as Missouri found that their health and social benefits related services were greatly impacted by the data sharing initiative in their state, all states should be looking at which changes are most advantageous across their departments as they implement their own initiatives.
Ensure there is Support for the Effort to Enact Data Sharing
Before moving forward with a data sharing plan, states should also consider questions originating from a variety of stakeholder perspectives:
- Are there bureaucratic or procedural barriers to state agencies being more open with their data?
- Are there budgetary concerns related to placing qualified personnel to help consolidate and share data?
- How will the data be stored?
- Who is the right team to ensure an efficient transition and secure solution?
Carefully addressing these concerns enhances buy-in by personnel at all levels of state government, facilitating greater success in the initiation and implementation of data sharing efforts.
Data sharing is essential to the future of state government, and its benefits outweigh any concerns that may arise from a lack of familiarity with the new process. Data sharing can improve communication, actionable insights, and overall analytics not only for city, state, and federal government agencies, but also to the public served by these governments.
ISF works to help state agencies complete successful projects through strategy, process, and technology.