- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s Medicaid agency is paying an institute at Clemson University $50,000 to monitor Facebook, Twitter, bloggers and other social media.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said it is using the information to help with customer service, like finding people who are having trouble with their health coverage. It also lets them know what people are thinking about Medicaid.

The Social Analytics Institute at Clemson uses a sophisticated search each day for terms related to the state Medicaid program and the new federal health care law. Those searches are made into a report given to agency officials on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

“I don’t know of another state agency that is doing this proactively,” John Supra, deputy director and chief information officer for the agency, told The Post and Courier of Charleston (https://bit.ly/1gTFKFg ).

The Department of Health and Human Services is currently deciding whether to renew its contract with the institute for a second year.

The institute has helped the agency find someone on Twitter who complained about problems filling out a Medicaid application and a blogger who was complaining about South Carolina’s Medicaid workers when his problem really was with North Carolina, said Jason Thatcher, director of the Social Analytics Institute.

What South Carolina health officials are doing isn’t much different than private companies. All the data monitored by the institute are public posts, Thatcher said.

“It sounds like it’s ‘government Big Brother,’ but you have to remember we’re looking at public data. We’re using literally the exact same tools that virtually everyone in the Fortune 500 is using to do customer service.” Thatcher said. “Really what we’re doing is taking a private-sector way of delivering superior customer service and we’re translating it to the domain of health care in South Carolina. That’s it.”

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Information from: The Post and Courier, https://www.postandcourier.com


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