Tag Archive for Online

Nebraska Issues Handicap Placards Online

Securing a handicap placard for drivers in Nebraska can be a time-consuming endeavor. After downloading an application from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website, patients must make an appointment to see their doctor to get their application filled out and approved. Next comes a visit to a DMV office with the application and ID, which is followed by the waiting game while the state processes the request and mails out the placard. From start to finish, getting the placard issued can easily take several weeks.

Betty Johnson, the DMV administrator charged with oversight of the handicap parking program, told Government Technology that during an agencywide review of agency procedures, placard processing surfaced as an area that could be improved.

“Our previous process really was very cumbersome, and required the exact people that we shouldn’t force to make several stops to make several stops to apply for the permits,” Johnson explained. “It was really important to us that we streamline this from their perspective.”

The agency spent two years developing an electronic permit processing system. This included preparing the necessary changes to state statutes, which were signed by Gov. Dave Heineman in February 2011. The DMV’s technical partner on the project is Nebraska Interactive, a division of e-government company NIC.

A group of practitioners from the Nebraska Medical Association was enlisted to test a mockup of the electronic system. Once their suggestions to improve the online process were incorporated, the system was ready for a limited rollout.

The DMV partnered with a busy orthopedic center in Lincoln that approves a significant amount of handicap permit requests. Once the 30-day pilot program ran its course, officials decided that electronic processing was ready for statewide release.

The new online system provides access to any licensed physician, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner in the state of Nebraska – the same group authorized to approve paper applications. They enter patient information and provide their approval. Data is then transmitted electronically to the DMV.

At the DMV, officials review and accept approved placard applications, which are automatically added to the state’s database. Permits are then printed and mailed to patients. The simpler process shaves as much as two weeks off the DMV’s total processing time.

Electronic processing also saves critical time for medical offices by removing several manual steps required with paper forms and allowing providers to import an electronic receipt of the approved placard transaction directly into a patient’s medical record.

The Nebraska DMV is spreading the word to medical offices throughout the state that this new option is available. To date, every Nebraska medical license holder authorized to approve handicap permits for patients has been notified that the electronic option is online. Early statistics reveal that several hundred practitioners have taken advantage of the new service. According to officials, during the week of October 22, nearly 18 percent of all handicap permit processing was completed online.

To reach its goal of 80 percent online processing, the DMV will continue its outreach and education effort, publicizing the availability of the service to medical providers, partner organizations and directly to patients.

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Virginia Launches Online Public Assistance System

Virginians in need of public assistance can now file for benefits online from the comfort and privacy of home.

The state launched CommonHelp, a self-service website that allows residents to apply for benefits, check on the status of applications or renew for assistance electronically. The system saves them the hassle of having to travel to a social services branch office to do paperwork and speeds the process of eligibility determination.

Developed in tandem by Deloitte and Virginia technology and social services staff, the site went live earlier this month. CommonHelp took approximately 18 months to build and can be used by citizens to apply for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, child-care services, energy assistance, food assistance and some medical assistance.

“Virginians can now apply for our services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from their homes, libraries, schools or anywhere the Internet is available to them,” said Virginia Department of Social Services Commissioner Martin D. Brown in a statement. “For some of our most vulnerable citizens, including the disabled and seniors, online services will make it easier to screen and apply for assistance.”

In an interview with Government Technology, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources William A. Hazel said the change was necessary due to aging back-end processing systems and a huge uptick in the number of people applying for benefits the past few years. 

Hazel explained that three years ago, approximately 600,000 people were enrolled in Medicaid. But with the difficulties brought on by the recession, that number is now roughly 960,000. In addition, eligibility determinations have skyrocketed, with more than 1.2 million being done last year for Medicaid and another 1.1 million for the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

But as the applications have increased, the budget for staffing, benefit eligibility determinations and other related tasks has not. Hazel said the situation has increased the amount of time customers have to wait for their eligibility to be verified and a backlog of work on staff that turns into error rates on applications.

In 2009, the percentage of errors on a Medicaid eligibility application was 16 percent — pieces of information were missing, applications were incomplete, etc. That drove the decision to create CommonHelp.

“We were faced with the thought that we had to have a more permanent solution to provide better access to citizens and reduce the eligibility application [error] rates,” Hazel said.

“This ultimately is not simply about eligibility determinations,” he added. “It’s about better case management and providing a higher quality service and being able to measure the results of the services we provide.”

Deloitte’s involvement in the project began years ago. The company was originally brought on by the Virginia Department of Social Services to build a website so that residents could apply online for child-care benefits.

But as the Department of Health and Human Resources decided to integrate its siloed systems and transition to service-oriented architecture — a collection of Web services and technology components that can help connect disparate systems — the initial child-care project was expanded.

Deloitte used the original technology it developed for a similar project in Michigan and adapted it to fit Virginia’s needs.

Virginia staff was also a big part of the portal’s development. The language used on the website was vetted through test audiences to ensure words were understandable, and social service workers were consulted so that the system was intuitive even to users not familiar with computers.

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