USDS Helps Tech, Policy Teams to Work Together

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Product managers at the U.S. Digital Service said that policy and operations teams should work together at Federal agencies to ensure that new technologies affect users in the way that policies intend.

“In the Federal government, policy is the way we talk about product strategy,” said Natalie Kates, product manager at USDS, on This is Product Management’s podcast on Oct. 23.

Kates is working with Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on building the Quality Payment Program website.

“We’re building a fully personalized experience for a doctor or practice manager or somebody who works with that doctor to manage their interaction with the government–among other things–to be able to submit data to CMS so that they’re compliant with this program, and get feedback on that data so that they know how well  they’re performing,” Kates said. “This program incentivizes and rewards doctors who are doing sort of higher quality work.”

The Quality Payments Program website is one of the ways that USDS is working with several agencies to modernize IT systems in the Federal government. This requires understanding of the policies that dictate the way that agencies must behave.

“Modernizing government has broad bipartisan support,” said Kelly Taylor, product manager at USDS.

Kates said that the usual process in the Federal government involves the policy team handing its decisions to the operations team to implement that policy. At HHS, Kates linked the two teams to allow them to both understand how the new technology would be used and whether the process made sense for doctors.

“One thing that we’ve focused on is making sure that the policies and the programmatic goals are aligned,” Kates said.

For example, the policymakers want the technology to tell the users whether they qualify for the Quality Payment Program.

“It really has become this mesh of expertise in the same room,” Taylor said.

Kates said that the best strategies for building policy that dictates technology is to have data that backs up the policy and to talk to users about their experiences. Kates also said that working with the Federal government can be an advantage because technology experts can have a say in the potential policies.

“Instead of responding to things that already exist, we have the ability to make sure the things that are going to exist actually can help the agency that we’re working with to achieve its goals in that area,” Kates said.

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