CLEAR News - Winter 2000


Express Access Services:
Illinois Department of Professional Regulation


In January 1999, newly elected Governor George Ryan appointed Leonard Sherman director of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation (IDPR). IDPR regulates approximately 50 profession groups, has approximately 700,000 active licensees, and an annual budget of $25 million.

The Governor charged Director Sherman with improving the public�s access to the agency. Upon arriving at IDPR, Director Sherman learned the agency's computer system, though relatively new, was developed using old technology which crippled the agency's automation attempts. At the same time, IDPR was receiving hundreds of complaints from licensees, constituent groups, consumer groups, and the legislature for poor public service. Director Sherman is a strong advocate of using technological advancements as well as promoting the concept of self-service to the people conducting business with IDPR.

The most commonly voiced complaint against the Department was the extremely long delays on the telephone waiting to speak with an agency customer service representative. It was alarming to learn the delays were as long as 45 minutes at peak times. Quickly, Director Sherman instructed staff to study the Department's Call Center to determine staffing totals, caller demographics and inquiry categories.

From the Call Center study, the agency learned that many calls were regarding the health-related professions such as physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and others. Primarily, over half of the calls were categorized as "license verifications." Medical facilities, recruiters, and the general public were calling to find out if their physician, dentist, etc. were licensed and in good standing with the Department. Upon learning the caller demographics and categories of calls, staff began to seek solutions to reduce the 45-minute "on-hold" time to a much more acceptable level.

It was apparent the Internet was emerging as the centerpiece of business and many of the Agency�s constituents were using this mechanism. The decision was made to provide a complete database of licensees on the Internet in a simple to use searchable format. As the agency began the implementation process of an Internet solution it was learned that the computer database system was inadequately prepared to accommodate this decision without a huge investment of time and money to upgrade it. Since the complaints were growing and the Call Center wait times were well beyond acceptable levels, the agency could not wait several more months to receive funding to upgrade the computer system. It was time to improvise.

Express Access License Look-Up
In July 1999, IDPR began a daily data extract that would utilize a Microsoft Sequel Server 7 database that would eventually be housed on an agency web server with Active Server Pages as the front end to allow people to verify licensee information. Providing basic licensee information on the Internet fit Governor Ryan�s desire to take advantage of technology and Director Sherman�s concept of self-service perfectly. IDPR's License Look-up verification database (
www.dpr.state.il.us/licenselookup) makes licensee information such as name, license number, city, state, discipline status and other basic information available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Recently, the agency added summary of disciplines as a hyperlink if the licensee has ever been disciplined.

Express Access Touch Tone Telephone Renewals & Internet Renewals
Touch Tone Telephone Renewals

While the Internet solution for license verifications was being developed, staff began pursuing automated license renewals. In August 1999, IDPR implemented a computer driven telephone renewal system (IVR) using a toll-free number and payment with a major credit card. People who renew their professional license via Touch-Tone Telephone Renewal receive their license approximately one week from the date of the renewal.

Internet Renewals
The Department recently developed a program to allow Illinois licensees to renew their license on the Internet at
www.dpr.state.il.us/renew_cc. The Internet renewal program was developed to be expedient, simple to use and secure. Licensees are prompted to enter their license number, personal identification number and/or their social security number in order to ensure we are communicating with the actual licensee. Upon entering a combination of this personal information, the Internet renewal program prompts the licensee to respond to the standard renewal questions and requests a major credit card (Mastercard, Visa, Discover). Responses to the questions are stored in a database and used the following day(s) to generate a license.

Since Illinois law does not allow the agency to pay credit card service fees, the agency is forced to ask the licensees using this service to pay $3 for each credit card renewed license. The addition of Touch-Tone Telephone and Internet Renewals has been a huge success for the agency. The total number of credit card processed renewals is in excess of 40,000 licenses since implementation in August 1999. The agency has received $2.7 million generated from credit card processed renewals. IDPR has experienced approximately 12 percent of all renewals using these electronic means.

e-Batch Renewals
In discussions with some of the agencys constituents, large employers and professional associations voiced complaints that indicated at renewal time they would like to assist their employees with the renewal process in order to assure all their employees are actively licensed. The agency partnered with the business community to allow "institutional" type of employers, such as pharmacies, hospitals, accounting firms, and engineering firms to have access to the agencys renewal database on the Internet for no additional charge. The employer collects the renewal forms and fees from their employees, then enters the license numbers and PIN numbers through a secure interface on the Internet. The renewal fees are then electronically transferred to the Illinois State Treasurer by a pre-arranged agreement, and licenses are printed and mailed within three to five days. "This is a perfect example of State government utilizing modern technology to better serve the citizens of Illinois," said Mary Barber-Reynolds, Governor Ryans Chief Technology Officer.

Print Replacement Renewal Forms on the Internet
Another problem facing many licensees was non-receipt of a renewal application and the frustrating process involved in requesting a new renewal notice. IDPR staff learned this was predicated by licensees not changing their address with the agency after moving. This also tied up telephone lines and ultimately resulted in many late renewals. The solution was to provide licensees with the opportunity to print a copy of their renewal application from the Internet. To improve the ability of licensees to notify the agency of address changes, the Department implemented an address change database on the Internet.

Initial License Applications
The Agency has made all profession applications and instructions available from the Web site for printing. New licensees, professional associations and others have found this new addition extremely helpful, as they no longer have to call the agency to request an application. The applications are located at www.dpr.state.il.us/proflist.cfm.

Internet Complaint Form
In order to provide yet another service on the Internet to the public, the agency provided a way for people to file complaints on-line at
https://www.ildpr.com/FILING/Complaint.asp.

IDPR is currently working to provide "Certification of Licensure" on the Internet for Illinois licensees seeking to be licensed in other states and plans later to coordinate a multi-state compact to expedite this process. The agency is also working to establish an Internet solution for initial application submission, on-line roster requests, and much more. In addition, IDPR will be pursuing the overall electronic data exchange possibilities with other states as it relates to licensure requirements.

The agency is pursuing legislative authority to absorb the credit card service fees as the benefits of more licensees using Touch Tone Telephone and Internet Renewals far outweigh the manual alternative. The agency is also in the process of identifying solutions to its outdated computer system. IDPR wants to be in a position to leverage technology to its fullest potential in order to achieve the highest level of public service.

The Illinois Department of Professional Regulation has made great strides to provide better public service and it is the hope that a dialogue is now established assuring its constituents that IDPR is interested in serving them.


If your department, agency or board would like to submit an article for CLEAR News that describes new programs or innovations please contact Scott Seymour at 859-269-1701 or e-mail at
sseymour@mis.net

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