Streamlining review and approval of professional licenses

A new cloud-based app aims to help states more quickly and transparently manage licensure for professionals in many fields, including health care.

Accela’s new Civic Application for Occupational Licensing, which launched Jan. 21, facilitates the licensing review and approval process, enabling state agencies to improve customer service. The app moves all licensing workflows and functions online, eliminating paper-based and manual steps.

“A real problem for occupational licensing organizations has been modernization of technology,” said Troy Coggiola, Accela’s chief product officer. “At the state level, there is less paper-based [work], but there are legacy systems and homegrown systems that are hard to maintain.”

To use the app, license applicants – those either applying for the first time or renewing -- go to a web portal that Accela sets up for the agency. They fill out the appropriate forms for the license they need, submit supporting documents and pay any associated fees. For example, applicants for state family and marriage therapist licenses need to provide documentation of post-graduate work experience, for example.

After applying, users can log back in to check on the status of their request.

The app’s back-office side is built on Accela’s business process automation platform. In addition to managing custom form creation, field management, document retrieval and other processes typical of workflow orchestration, it also handles security, including automatic patching, Coggiola said. Agency staff have access to automated workflows and intelligent routing, which help improve data sharing, speed the review and issuance process and execute public safeguards and proper code enforcement.

An open application programming interface supports the app’s integrations with external information systems to validate education, work history, exam results or other requirements needed to approve licenses. Additionally, the app gives agencies reporting tools so they can measure, track and analyze productivity, such as the number of applications received, license types and late renewals.

“There’s a lot that has to happen to get to the step where the license can be approved, and without a robust system to manage all that, there are a lot of potential handoff challenges and also visibility challenges” in that applicants don’t know where their applications sit, he said. “This is about showing efficiency and transparency in the application process and the renewals process.”

The app is the newest addition to the company’s suite of out-of-the-box software-as-a-service Civic Applications, which have reduced implementation time from 30% to 60%, according to the company. Others include business licensing, cannabis regulation, city planning and COVID-19 response. The latter solution can be used at the state level, but is intended more for use by county health departments. It can be stood up within a few weeks to help with tasks such as repurposing occupancy limitations to house staff at hospitals; reviewing, approving and managing childcare provider licenses to provide temporary childcare programs during the pandemic; and certifying or re-certifying medical professionals and managing the screening, availability and scheduling of volunteers to help with COVID patient caseloads.

Accela began the shift toward prebuilt applications about three years ago to support what Coggiola describes as change in how government purchases software – moving away from a toolkit for building solutions from scratch. Because professionals in licensed occupations make up a quarter of the workforce, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, he sees growth potential.

Going forward, the company is looking at “data management and analytics capabilities, improvements to the citizen experience,” Coggiola said. Other opportunities include occupational licensing and the cross-state transfer of licenses, which he calls a significant problem for military families that frequently relocate.

In line with that focus on analytics is Accela Insights, a data visualization platform the company announced in November 2020.

“A big piece of this is helping agencies understand the impact of their licensing requirements on market participants and ensuring equity,” Coggiola said.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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