The Virginia Department of Health Professions Searches For Upgraded Practices
How did Virginia Interactive (VI) manage to save the Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP) over $378,960 in a single year? By vigorously automating and streamlining an antiquated analogue service demanding over 300 man-hours each month, and coupling it to a creative and efficient payment processing solution. Here how it happened:
Prior to implementing the VI powered processes in January of 2001, DHP was providing a service of high value to citizens and businesses, albeit with a methodology that had inefficient internal protocols, and with expensive outsourcing of its billing needs. Any health board's office might receive a letter, facsimile, or phone request for information, and would then forward the request to the IT division of the Department of Health Professions. The IT staff would procure the information manually, then mail a static copy to the requesting entity. The turnaround time on such a service could be as long as three days, not including delivery of information via the U.S. Postal Service. As the system was dependent on staff-hours, requests could only be taken and fulfilled during business hours. If a business required another copy, the entire process had to be repeated from the very beginning.
To better serve the end user, to efficiently lower costs for the Department, and to provide the most comprehensive solution for an evolving world, a new process was undeniably required. The Virginia Department of Health Professions and Virginia Interactive partnered to offer two brand-new online services to achieve this goal.
VI crafted a new funding model oriented around dual web-based services. One, the DHP Health Professional Data Service, provides fee-based access for businesses to enhanced database search and retrieval for marketing-related purposes. The proceeds from this service, in turn, fund a free public service, the Licensee Lookup, which is available to all citizens wanting to verify the license and/or disciplinary status of a health professional.
The free online Licensee Lookup allows for a search of a specific health professional to verify that he is licensed and in good standing with the applicable health professions board. Additionally, this system allows Virginians new to an area or in need of a new health professional to use a powerful search feature to locate one within a selected zip code region. The search's return displays the professional's full name, license number, address of record, initial license date, license expiration, and whether the query subject has been subject to any disciplinary action within the past 15 years.
The DHP Health Professional Data Service enables businesses to search for and purchase licensee information, in much the same manner as in the Licensee Lookup. This may then be used for broad purposes such as mailings and marketing-related contacts, and also to maintain records of current addresses and license status. The service conveniently offers the data in a variety of file formats including text, pipe-delimited, CSV, and Excel, making the data easy to format into an internal database.
Since the initial service implementation, two additional data services have been added for high-volume users such as hospital organizations, human resources services providers, or insurance companies - users that make thousands of inquiries on a daily basis. The License Verification Service offers unlimited lookups of license status information and the Case Decision Notification service offers the ability to track the status of any health professional licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Updates regarding license renewal or expiration, plus notice of court proceedings and case decisions, are sent to the subscriber's email address of choice daily.
Fully breaking away from the outdated manual process, citizens and businesses may check on the status of all health professionals twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and are no longer confined to the office hours of each health board. Citizens may conduct as many searches as necessary to find an appropriate health care provider within a specified zip code. Businesses also may have the information provided in a format that will allow them to use it multiple times for a variety of purposes.
Prior to implementation of the online service, the Department and its boards received approximately 1,158 data requests each year. For a minimum level search, the IT staff would need to spend no less than three hours of its time compiling the requested data, equating to more than 3,474 hours annually.
Adding to the expense in man hours, previously DHP had paid an outside entity upward of $12,000 a month to manage the billing process, resulting in an annual cost ranging from $120,000 to $144,000. Payments and billing are now handled by Virginia Interactive, fully eliminating the need for a costly outside billing service provider.
Within the first five months of these services becoming available, there were no fewer than 212 Online Professional Information Service queries, resulting in a cost saving to DHP, at a minimum, of $76,320 in that time period. Added to this was a savings of $50,000 to $60,000 in billing expenses for a total cost savings of no less than $126,320. In the first year of operation, the online services created a minimum savings of 318 man-hours per month, with a cost savings of $378,960 to $408,960.
Since inception, the DHP Health Professionals Data Services License Database Download service has provided more than 730,000,000 records to subscribers. Having partnered with Virginia Interactive, their search is now complete for upgraded systems and payment processing.