The Citizen Services Continuum: breaking down silos and eliminating fragmentation
Siloed systems can be bad news for local government service delivery and care continuity; a services continuum powered by integration and smart technology could eradicate this age-old issue.
Chain of events
We all use public services, usually at difficult stages in our lives: illness or injury; bereavement; accessing social housing; reporting a crime. More often than not, we’ll need assistance from several services providers.
Someone hurt in an accident for example, will start at A&E and might go home the same day or be admitted overnight. They might need surgery. On discharge, they’ll book a follow-up appointment at their GP surgery, collect their medication from the pharmacy, and return to a different treatment centre for physiotherapy.
So far, it’s a familiar healthcare story, but it’s one that often extends beyond NHS involvement. If they are unable to work, they’ll possibly need help claiming Statutory Sick Pay. If they live in local authority accommodation, the housing association might be informed. If the injury was sustained in a road traffic incident, the police would be involved.
A public service journey
This hypothetical snapshot of one public service journey spans just some of the many potential agencies and interventions; NHS, local authority, social care, housing, justice, etc. It’s a familiar cycle that could start anywhere in the service delivery chain.
The entry point for a family moving to a new area for example, might be applying for local housing and school places before joining a GP practice list and registering to vote. A patient leaving hospital after a stroke might need home care, then a social worker assessment to check whether they are eligible for an attendance allowance. They might be eligible for disability benefits and/or be relocated to more suitable accommodation.
I call this a Citizen Services Continuum – a series of interactions triggered when a person (or people) need help from local government and other public sector organisations. While all these types of service differ, they are all related and as we’ve seen above, there’s no definitive starting point.
And as interaction is usually just one part of a chain that involves numerous steps and participants, the ability to share relevant information between agencies – quickly, accurately and securely – is vital.
Fragmentation compromises continuity of service
But a service cycle can only be a citizen services continuum if it enables service providers to work together. Unfortunately, siloed organisations and systems can limit information exchange between agencies, hampering their efforts to deliver the right services, meaning they often have no idea what stage people have reached in their journey. The result is confusion and delay rather than a coherent cycle of support.
It’s something I’ve thought about a lot when working with local authorities as they look to digitise citizen service delivery and create smarter communities.
We know there is an appetite for greater collaboration and better use of digital in public service delivery; recently released research indicates that 80% of local government leaders think health and care integration will be good for care outcomes. Yet the same percentage say that their organisation is not taking advantage of the benefits new technologies can deliver.
A smarter, more cohesive continuum
A common digital platform can create a single, connected community that enables consistent citizen interaction, and an architectural approach to any digital and smart implementation will avoid complexity and duplication by bridging technology silos. This reduces the likelihood of people being ‘lost’ in the system, or services being delayed, and brings us a step closer to a genuine Citizen Service Continuum carousel that can be accessed, left and re-joined at any point, and with all service providers able to access relevant information.
Which means staff can respond to residents more quickly and effectively rather than trawling through paperwork and making endless telephone calls to other agencies. The result is a more efficient system– and one that makes things better for everyone, whether they are service recipients or providers.