For the Environmental Health Division of El Paso County, Colorado, antiquated software systems hindered activities intended to protect public health. With unreliable data, El Paso’s leadership could not count on their system when making decisions — ones that were critical to employees, services and finances. The County could not easily or e ciently track productivity, justify fees, monitor accounts or provide information to the State or other managing bodies. Most important, disparate data systems meant management could not take measure of their public health impact.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
A paper-based system made it di cult for the County to track programs, monitor agency .nances and e ciently perform inspections. Tom Gonzales, El Paso County’s Director of Environmental Health, saw the effects first-hand. In order to know how many pools the division monitored, for example, someone would have to go to a storage room and count files. He couldn’t determine how many restaurants also had wells or septic systems, or calculate the average time it took to complete enforcement actions. El Paso County assessed fees based on a mix of licensing and inspection fees, with additional charges for follow-up activities. Without any alerts in place for additional services, financial staff wouldn’t always know that facilities needed to be billed for follow-up inspections. Additionally, environmental health specialists would use paper forms to perform inspections and then return to the office to enter tedious inspection data, capping each inspector at two inspections per day.
It was time for a change. “We needed to go paperless and we needed to be mobile. Our environmental health specialists have four-year degrees. They shouldn’t be behind a desk doing data entry; they should be out doing their jobs.” Gonzales had prior experience with Accela Environmental Health and had been very impressed with the solution’s broad reach of capabilities. After he presented the facts that helped get leadership on board, El Paso County decided to move forward with implementation.
HOW ACCELA EMPOWERS EL PASO
Gonzales knew from his previous implementation that it was essential to have someone knowledgeable about data management involved in the process, and he knew Chris Wright, an experienced data analyst, was the person for the job. Key players from each program met with Wright weekly to be trained, provide input and assist with con.guration of the system. Wright credits their focus on the data as being a key factor in the project’s success. From the beginning, their efforts had been on collecting the data that heavily impacts the community. With Accela, El Paso County has been able to consolidate food inspection and pool inspection forms and, in turn, they’ve created a dynamic consumer health inspection form. Furthermore, the Consumer Health Report has been an excellent example of El Paso County Public Health making its data work harder. Rather than maintaining multiple custom inspection forms, the Division employs one consolidated report driven by user input.
THE BOTTOM LINE
After implementation, training and going live with the new system, e.ciency at El Paso County Public Health is up by 33%. Now, inspectors can complete their inspections on a mobile device in the field and, where possible, multiple inspections have been consolidated into one visit. When health specialists perform additional services, a report automatically alerts the leading program assistant, who now knows which speci.c facility to bill. Additionally, El Paso was able to bring back three programs that were shelved during the 2008 economic downturn, without having to hire additional staff. “That makes my boss and board very happy. I don’t have to drastically raise fees,” Gonzales gladly shares. Printing inspection results onsite was once expensive and ine.cient. The Accela solution has enabled Gonzales and Wright to email inspection information and post it online. And, because of this, annual paper costs are down by almost 50%.
Gonzales no longer has to guess about time and activity to plan fees. With Accela Environmental Health, he is able to quickly run a report that totals time spent on each service. “I know just by looking at my dashboard reports that we have 2,400 active retail food establishments and 347 active child care facilities. I’ll be on a conference call with the State, and they might ask me, ‘How many restaurants do you have?’ and ‘How many with over 200 seats?’ and I’ll be able to tell them exact numbers.”