Automatic is key

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first edition of my new bi-weekly newsletter where in each edition I will be explaining ways you can get the most out of technology. For the most part, it will pertain to websites but every now and then we will discuss how custom computer programs can benefit you. Some of these solutions may not pertain to you and some may. The purpose of these newsletters is to get you aware of what is possible and maybe trigger an idea that I can help you with to get your business or organization operating more efficient. If you know anyone who might be interested in an idea I discuss in an issue, or you think they may be interested in receiving the bi-weekly newsletter, feel free to share it with them.

Without further ado, let’s begin!

When you are working with government agencies, or any entity, there are certain guidelines, policies and procedures that must be followed. This can definitely become a hassle when trying to coordinate such regulations with an interactive website. One such example of this is with boards of developmental disabilities, when sending out Requests for Providers (RFP). Providers are essentially companies or individuals who provide some type of service to people with disabilities. This might include personal care, transportation or other services. When a person needs a new provider, one way to find a provider is to send out a notice to all of the applicable providers that someone is in need of their service, a Request for Provider.

When a board of developmental disabilities sends out one of these RFPs, they have to worry about fairness while considering the method of delivery. All providers need to be notified of the request at the same time, or as close as possible. One method of doing this is through e-mail. With this method the county is in the clear since it would be up to the provider as to when they check their e-mail and see the request. Another method is to post the request on the board’s website. In this method, the county is in the clear because, like with the e-mail method, it is dependent on the provider as to when they see the request by checking the website periodically. A third effective way to get these types of notifications out in an orderly manner is through something called an RSS feed.

Any one of these methods has its pros and cons so the best solution is to deploy all three of the methods in order to have the maximum effectiveness. These RFPs are submitted by the consumer, their parents’, or another member of their support team. Once a request is submitted, it must go through a human being to make sure that there are no HIPAA violations. With the number of variables that come into play with unknown people submitting these requests, in order do this easily and in a uniformed manner, you need to streamline the process as much as possible.

This is where having someone who knows the work flow of this process and is able to create customized applications that are tailored not just to follow regulations and policies but also that involves the least amount of work for your employees. At the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, they have a streamlined system that I have developed for them. The first step in the process of submitting a request is someone fills out a form that is on their website. Once this form gets submitted, it gets entered a database. Then once a day or every other day, a set of board employees go into a secured section of the website and are able to see these RFPs. Based on information that get filled out during the submission, these RFPs get entered into specific areas so that certain employees can be in charge of only certain types of requests, such as Early Intervention or some other group of consumers. When the board employee works on approving these requests, it is already mostly completed automatically. All the employee needs to do is check spelling and grammar, make sure there are not any HIPAA violations and a few more things that are not possible to automate. Once the board employee has done all the checking and corrections needed, the employee can have the RFP posted to their website, have it sent out to appropriate providers via e-mail, and posted to an RSS feed all with just a few clicks.

Having an easy and time-saving method of getting these requests out to the maximum number of people is great but now we need a way to easily or automatically handle fulfilled and old requests. We don’t want a request to stay on the website after it has been fulfilled and we don’t want requests to be on the website forever if nobody fulfills the request or if somebody forgets to take it off the website after it has been fulfilled. At Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, we have requests stay on the website for a maximum of 14 days unless taken down manually. Once the request needs to be taken down, it wouldn’t be a good idea just to simply remove it from the website because if a provider comes back to the website to respond to the RFP, it might be confusing if the request is just gone. To avoid this, we have the requests stay on the website for another 3 days but under a “Closed” status which indicates that the request is no longer needing to be fulfilled.

By moving to a more automated way of handling routine and mundane tasks, we can free up a lot of employees’ time. This in turn gives them the greater ability to help their existing clients and help improve the quality of their work.