Med-QUEST: An Agency’s Transformed to Online Services

May 6, 2020 | Hawaii Tribune Herald

By Christine Sakuda

Kaua‘i County’s emergency proclamations are among the state’s most stringent. Of course, coronavirus caught much of the world and Hawai‘i off-guard. However, in the private sector, small businesses rose to the occasion by digitizing their sales while some of our favorite restaurants quickly pivoted to offering online ordering and curbside pick-up through their websites. But what about the public sector?

How has state government innovated in today’s most critical sector: health?

Less Waiting, More Medicaid

Signing up for government assistance is usually no cakewalk given the paperwork and lag times.

Many citizen e-services are burdened with antiquated software, riddled with bugs and inefficiencies.

The non-profit I lead, Transform Hawai‘i Government, is always on the look-out for digital modernization examples on our islands that can serve as prototypes for the rest of our state’s government.

Let’s examine a public service that’s getting health care coverage to a population in need.

“Med-QUEST Division” (MQD) under the State Department of Human Services (DHS) umbrella, provides access to medical assistance for eligible residents statewide. Through a redesigned information technology (IT) system, they’ve improved the application process. And, you can apply from the safety of your home.

Med-QUEST Transformation Journey

With an office in Lihu‘e, MQD accepts applications through a variety of channels including online, over the phone, by mail, and even fax.

That wasn’t always the case.

Like many state agencies, online and phone applications swamped MQD. Three years ago, DHS had the prescience to upgrade well before a major disaster, let alone a global pandemic, hit. They partnered with BerryDunn, a top accounting firm, to make improvements to the business and technology environments at MQD.

Embarking on a big redesign of its eligibility and beneficiary processes, MQD created the Kauhale On-Line Eligibility Assistance (KOLEA) system to improve quality and performance. Making processes easier allowed MQD staff to devote more time directly to client support.

People-Centered Model

MQD went beyond the “0”s and “1”s of better IT coding to boost employee morale that, in turn, improved customer experience.

MQD sought to cultivate a new culture, taking on board the perspectives of staff and clients to engender DHS’s guiding principle of ‘Ohana Nui’ (extended family).

Through staff development, change management, process reengineering, and a renewed focus on customer service, MQD helps Kaua‘i residents more quickly in the wake of the coronavirus.

Halo Effect

It’s our view at Transform Hawai‘i Government that Med-QUEST gives agencies like DHS a “halo effect” and they’re well on their way to delivering the QUEST qualities: Quality care, Universal access, Efficient utilization, Stabilizing costs, and Transforming the way health care is provided to recipients.

No healthcare service is perfect, but considering there are 17 other agencies in the State of Hawai‘i – not counting her cities and counties – hopefully other governmental citizen service providers will be inspired to ask themselves, “How can IT innovations make our residents’ lives better?” We need them now.