The correspondence sent by Michigan to its residents containing benefits programs updates and action items continues to be too long, too vague, and too reliant on legal jargon. This prevents residents from getting the help they need and forces agency staff to spend time explaining the letters.
Starting in 2021, Michigan selected 15 major types of correspondence for this redesign effort. The state is now incorporating plain language, clarifying instructions, and reorganizing the structure of these letters using a hierarchy of information based on design principles. The approach and design are continuously updated using feedback from residents.
Project Outcomes and Impact
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is currently testing the redesigned letters and soliciting user feedback. Respondents indicate that the letters are more accessible and clearer, thereby increasing their trust in the agency. Agency staff also believe that this redesign will reduce operational burdens for them.
Correspondence is one of the most direct forms of contact between government agencies and residents. Michigan's use of human-centered redesign offers an opportunity to build processes which truly reflect the needs of residents, respond to issues on the ground, and rebuild trust in government.
Missouri is currently attempting its own redesign of forms and letters after being inspired by Michigan's success.