During our candid discussion, I asked Dr. Levin for his perspectives on the Blue Button initiative and the Developer Challenge, as well as the role of Health Information Technology as it relates to his vision of empowerment for V.A. consumers.
As much as the social media is exciting on the technology front, I think the real impact it has is shifting the way we all think about technology from green screens to an enabler of the interactions we have with family, friends, co-workers and customers. Social media has shown that technology can be the foundation of friendly and easy-to-use applications that allows us to share ideas and information beyond the limitations of time and geographic locations.
The most important point I was trying to raise in this discussion is that although the new social media tools are very exciting, the real opportunity for government agencies is to take the lessons learned from social media and apply them to the core processes in government.
What does it matter if an agency has a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page if it is still hard for its citizens to find critical programs and enroll in them? How do we make enrolling in benefits as easy as it is these days to create and share a video on YouTube?
A case in point is a recent 60 Minutes profile of Veterans Affairs. According to the investigation, the form for applying for benefits is 23 pages long, on average 6 months to get an initial response, and the amount of paperwork generated in a case can span from one to several file-size boxes. How can lessons in social media help to transform this? I would imagine a veteran would hardly care about the VA having a Facebook fan page. Rather, they would want to see easier ways to interact with the VA that was directed to helping them receive eligible benefits faster.
In my next post, I’ll discuss some of the specific issues highlighted in the 60 Minutes coverage of the benefits backlog at Veteran Affairs. I’ll provide my perspective on how some of these issues may be improved with the pragmatic application of technology and the belief that our veterans deserve better.