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COVID-19 has shown that in a time of crisis, governments need complete and up-to-date data to protect citizen safety, track and mitigate the spread of the virus, and provide key services such as testing and social assistance programs.

As more cities and states begin the reopening process, having a clear plan of action for intra-agency collaboration and informed decision making will be essential to keeping everyone safe.  

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Federal, state, and local governments all play a role in making sure there is a coordinated, informed, and efficient response to support a safe reopening, and the ability to share data between agencies and stakeholders is key to this. Coordinating this information exchange however is not always an easy task — modern systems must be able to access, integrate with, and exchange data with numerous siloed legacy systems, many of which can be decades old. Furthermore, this data must be easily shared not only between local agencies, but also with other state governments, the federal government, and private partners. As the demand for speed and agility becomes more important, traditional integration approaches cannot keep up. However, there is another way to facilitate integration and data exchange, and that is the modern, reusable API.

Here are three ways APIs can help public sector agencies respond to COVID-19 and reopen communities and economies safely:

#1 Facilitating contact tracing programs

Contact tracing has become essential in the path to a safe return to normal. As state and local government agencies adopt and implement a variety of contact tracing solutions, a key consideration that needs to be addressed is that data in these solutions cannot exist in a silo. This critical information needs to easily be accessed and integrated with other core systems to provide a complete view of a citizen and patient. Contact tracing data also needs to be shared with partners and stakeholders like hospitals and healthcare authorities, partner agencies, as well as internal stakeholders. This means integrating contact tracing data with electronic health record (EHR) systems, case management systems, and analytics tools just to name a few. 

APIs can easily and securely unlock contact tracing data and integrate it with other applications and data sources, empowering leaders with access to complete, accurate, and up-to-date information in real-time. Numerous states have already begun leveraging APIs in this exact way. Recently, a state health agency leveraged MuleSoft to launch a contact tracing solution in partnership with Salesforce and Deloitte. In addition to developing a case management solution in just five days, other agencies within this state are now looking to reuse this same solution to assign and manage first responders to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Leveraging an API-led approach to connect systems can facilitate a clear view across individuals’ interactions, medical and treatment information, and more. As sharing data between state, local, and national agencies continues to increase as we reopen, making sure data is readily available will be important in monitoring a situation at hand and informing a quick and efficient response to anything that arises.

#2 Automating social services and enabling citizen self-service

Now more than ever, providing citizens with social services and assistance programs is paramount. As millions have filed for unemployment benefits and are looking for assistance programs to make it through these difficult times, a common challenge has not only been difficulties in applying for benefits but also knowledge of what programs they may be eligible to participate in.

Because many back-end systems supporting these assistance programs were built and expanded upon over many years, navigating these systems requires accessing multiple portals, filing individual cases and requests, and long, manual reviews. Add to that the challenge that some government systems were written in archaic code not designed to handle such a high volume of claims, leading to even greater delays in processing. Aside from a disjointed experience for citizens and employees, this has the consequence that those who need the additional support the most may not know what benefits could even be available to them.

APIs again can play a key role in helping to integrate eligibility systems, streamline and automate approval processes, and pull the necessary data to give applicants and case managers a complete view of what benefits, services, and support is available for a given situation. Furthermore, integration with newer technologies like chatbots can help citizens self-serve questions even more quickly. This means faster time to resolution for new cases and citizens can access all the benefits they are entitled to more quickly and easily. Furthermore, the flexibility of an API-led architecture means that as agencies introduce any new services, they can easily enrich and bring in new data sources into their eligibility determination processes. 

#3 Rapidly deploying new services to enable a safer reopening

As testing continues to increase and work on a vaccine progresses, government officials need a holistic view of the latest health data and what resources, such as PPE, are available to keep employees and the public safe. In addition to integrating citizen and health data, the value of APIs can also extend to quickly standing up new applications, such as inventory and tracking systems for PPE, testing resources, hospital bed utilization, and even an eventual vaccine. 

The Indiana Department of Child Services leverages MuleSoft and Salesforce for state-wide connectivity across all of its systems. The state is now leveraging reusable APIs it previously created across several departments to ensure safety for its citizens and employees. 

When COVID-19 hit, its child welfare and child support teams needed data from the state’s health department, such as shot and immunization records, to ensure child health safety. Since the state’s infrastructure was already optimized for reuse, the Department of Child Services was able to quickly reuse the APIs already created, unlocking and consuming the necessary data from the Department of Health. 

Additionally, the state is using APIs to manage building operations for its 92 office buildings. An API was already built with MuleSoft to the state’s PeopleSoft architecture — with it, the Indiana Department of Child Services can manage employee access to all of its buildings to comply with social distancing policies and ensure that adequate PPE and hand sanitizer was distributed across its offices.

“Within eight hours, my team built a tracking software for all 92 counties to determine who’s in the building, when they check-in and check-out to meet social distancing limits, as well as how much hand sanitizer or how many masks we need.”

– Kevin Jones, CIO, Indiana Department of Child Services

The role of the government in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is to make sure citizens are as protected and safe as possible. Being able to access key data stored across systems, integrate it, and easily and securely share that data is key to making informed decisions and driving a more efficient and effective response to COVID-19. APIs are a key enabler to this response and having a platform that provides the ability to design, deploy, and manage the full lifecycle of these APIs makes it easier and quicker to realize the value they can bring.

To learn more about how MuleSoft and the API-led approach can help your agency respond to COVID-19 and hear how customers are leveraging APIs to respond, download The CIO guide to crisis recovery here

To see how MuleSoft is supporting our partners during this time, please see this recent blog post here.