California’s Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) is an agency that administers essential services to millions of California’s most vulnerable and at-risk residents. As CHHS transitions toward a more client-centric approach to delivering services, it has partnered with the USC Children’s Data Network (CDN) to conduct periodic “record reconciliations” that link and organize administrative, client-level records across major CHHS programs and data sources (i.e., CalFresh (aka Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program); CalWORKs (aka TANF); Child Protection; Developmental Services; Emergency, Hospital Discharge, and Ambulatory Surgery; Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment (Family PACT); In-Home Supportive Services; Medi-Cal; Vital Birth; Vital Death; and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)).
This data integration effort has resulted in the development of encrypted master “intra-agency” client identifiers, which facilitates the exchange of statistical information both within and between individual CHHS departments and the generation of important information about service involvement at a client and population level. In addition, it constitutes an important first step toward organizing CHHS data into family units and households – context critical to understanding CHHS clients and service experiences – and the development of longitudinal, cross-sector datasets for collaborative research, evaluation, and everyday operations.
Furthermore, these efforts have fulmented the development of a secure, cloud-based research enclave for hosting record-level research data sets and accompanying linkage keys. Once operational, this environment will provide carefully controlled, role-based access to analysts within CHHS. In the longer term, the goal is to develop protocols that, with necessary approvals, will give external university-based and other research partners access to curated data sets and statistical resources within this analytic environment. It is anticipated that this secure platform will advance rigorous evaluation, improve the reproducibility of research, create efficiencies in data management, and further the engagement of university-based researchers with government. Additionally, we believe that a research data hub will enhance record security and client confidentiality through data access and security protocols that can be more carefully audited.