August 1, 2008 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: James Toews, DHS assistant director for SPD
Transformation is giving DHS the opportunity to do a better job of what we all care most about - serving our clients. Today marks a milestone in the Transformation process - the end of training for the first group of Lean Leaders.
James Toews, Assistant Director for Seniors and People with Disabilities
Assistant Director
James Toews

On Monday, August 4, our Lean Leaders go to work to help all of us implement our initiatives. SPD has committed outstanding employees to the Lean Leader training, and we look forward to their ongoing leadership with the initiatives we have identified as priorities for our division.

Of the eight initiatives SPD has identified, the first two we intend to implement this year will:

  • Streamline the financial eligibility determination process to improve service and reduce wait times; and
  • Streamline the Developmental Disabilities service delivery and contracting processes.

Each of these initiatives is critical to the work we do in SPD, and both involve a number of interrelated, complex processes involving state and federal statutes, rules and regulations. Our approach will be to take them one at a time to disentangle and rework the processes.

SPD already has had a successful experience with the kind of Rapid Process Improvement (RPI) sessions that our Lean Leaders are being trained to conduct. In February 2008, SPD conducted a three-day RPI session to look at the initial application process for Medicaid, food stamps and long-term care services. The workgroup consisted of Area Agency on Aging and SPD case managers, program managers and eligibility staff, as well as central office staff from SPD and DHS. The session was held in recognition of the fact that local office staff work with increasingly complicated programs, processes and paperwork, but they have very little time to look at overall process improvements.

The results from the RPI were impressive. The group developed a flow chart of existing processes, a revised flow chart that eliminated unnecessary steps and focused on customer service and efficiency, and a list of proposed work efficiencies in the areas of policy, forms and technology. Those actions that could be implemented immediately were implemented, and others were placed on a list for future implementation as staff and technology become available.

When the RPI session was complete, one of SPD's local offices volunteered to pilot the recommended service flow and pursue other process improvements. The office's goal is to identify unnecessary wait times and hand-offs, and begin using staff in such a way that the workloads are less specialized.

Quick and efficient customer service is a positive in all industries - including health and human services. Most clients prefer an immediate intake over the phone or in the local office, rather than an appointment some time in the future. The revised processes now being piloted will make that immediate service possible.

Based on the success of this effort, another RPI -- the Application Process Improvement Workgroup -- is meeting to sustain the current momentum and provide further suggestions for work efficiencies.

We know how critical it is to have the staff who do the work make decisions about improving the work, and that is what the RPI process has allowed us to do. We are committed to making the right improvements in our processes in the right way so that we can continue to serve the people of Oregon in the best way possible.

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