From a first failed try at digitization, to landing on a transformative, long-term solution, ABPE paves the way for regulatory transformation in Arizona.
No. of LICENSEES: +2,000
Sometimes the path towards digital transformation isn’t always linear or straightforward. For the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners, it took having an acute understanding of what did not work for their board before landing on a reliable, long-term solution that delivers great value. After a frustrating period implementing what ultimately turned out to be a failed system, the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners successfully brought their licensing operations into a centralized and digitized environment with Thentia Cloud.
The Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners (ABPE) is a ten-member board appointed by the Governor of the State of Arizona and confirmed by the Arizona Senate. Within Arizona, there is an independent state agency model, allowing individual boards to be involved in crafting policy in order to evolve and respond to industry demands.
The board has two major areas of regulatory authority. First, it licenses individuals to practice psychology or behavior analysis in the State of Arizona, which includes approximately 2,000 licensed psychologists and 800 licensed behavior analysts. Second, it investigates and adjudicates allegations of unprofessional conduct filed against licensed psychologists and behavior analysts.
While the psychologist profession in the state continues to see steady growth, the licensed behavior analyst profession has seen explosive growth, due in part to increases in diagnoses for individuals with neurological and developmental disorders who would benefit from behavior analytic service, which these professionals are key in supporting.
APBE operates with four full-time employees and one part-time employee and together, they manage the licensing of both professions, all investigations as well as reporting, and administrative functions.
The time spent compiling reports has reduced by 95%.
Software licensing fees alone are 30% less than the failed system.
With automated renewals, overall manual workload is reduced by 15%.
A unique aspect to regulation in Arizona is the way in which boards are required to manage their licensing processes. Under the “Applicant Bill of Rights”, each board must adhere to mandatory application processing times and must report on performance at the end of its fiscal year. Additionally, there are expectations that investigations must be completed within 180 days and boards can be questioned by the Auditor General if delayed beyond that. Executive Director, Heidi Paakkonen, is responsible for all reporting by the board and overseeing operational processes and systems.
Moving away from a failed system
When Paakkonen accepted her role in 2019, she recognized that processes within the team were siloed which meant that they were carrying unnecessary risks. Despite having strong team relationships, there was no system of redundancy. Because of how files were maintained and a heavy reliance on email, each function performed by the board was utterly reliant on a single individual performing that job. And while a project to implement a more modernized system had commenced in 2018, it fell short of expectations in numerous ways. Paakkonen notes that she documented over ten pages of requirements that were not being met by the new system. As she states it, “The system set us up for failure.” Some of the difficulties included:
In addition to the system failures they had experienced, the team had some significant operational challenges that were highly burdensome and time consuming for staff, including a high volume of applicant email requests (up to 100 a month) requiring individual follow-ups, difficulty restricting staffing agencies or employers attempting to manage an applicant’s file, and the inability to view data in real time.
Moreover, reporting was incredibly time consuming when considering the volume of manual data reports that were required on a per-month basis. Paakkonen explains, “We have all kinds of reports to send to the governor’s office, to the legislature, to the governor’s Regulatory Review Council – just about every week of every month I’m reporting something to someone.”
The resounding shortcomings of APBE’s previous system were quickly recognized by APBE staff, who were desperate for a better future for the board. Without a functioning software system, the team was forced to return to their original, manual system of processing applications until they could identify a long-term replacement solution. To prepare for a possible new system, Paakkonen made an application for out-of-cycle funding.
A solution that fit the bill and reduced software licensing fees
In 2021, Thentia initiated a demonstration of Thentia Cloud for several Arizona regulatory boards, including ABPE. Paakkonen, who attended the demonstration, immediately noticed a notable improvement in the various configuration options compared to the previous system.
Additionally, the licensing fees for Thentia Cloud alone were 30% less than the previous system, and importantly, the platform didn’t require additional expensive support hours to configure.
Deciding to move ahead with Thentia Cloud, ABPE and Thentia initiated the migration plan quickly, beginning with license application renewals. And there was a bonus: the platform costs were able to be absorbed within the board’s operating budget, giving them more runway to make further technological advancements down the road.
Addressing the workload of renewal applications
Over the next several months, APBE worked with Thentia in an agile fashion, adapting to changing legal statutes and workforce changes as they configured the new system. With 140 renewal applications coming in every month, it was a heavy workload where the team could immediately benefit from automation.
With their migration to Thentia Cloud, APBE immediately benefitted from the license registration module of the platform, giving them a back end for their staff administrators as well as the licensee portal, enabling applicants the ability to manage their personal and professional registration profile information in a cloud-based, mobile-friendly environment. The result: applicants were finally able to easily upload or download documents, track and manage their continuing education requirements, apply for and renew licenses, make payments, submit change requests, and access their payment history.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARIZONA BOARD OF PSYCHOLOGIST EXAMINERS
Overall, the feedback on the transition to Thentia Cloud has been positive from key stakeholders. Paakkonen is especially appreciative of the flexibility and configurability offered, “What I want people to take away from our experience is that if you ask Thentia for some latitude or flexibility, you’re going to get it.” Aside from a positive implementation experience, the board has also experienced:
Reduced time spent on reporting by 95%
Arizona is an exceptionally open state when it comes to public records. Paakkonen emphasizes, “We can’t miss a minute when it comes to having access to data. With Thentia Cloud the reports we need are available right away.” Where previously reporting would have taken up to ten hours to prepare each month, they are now prepared in only a fraction of an hour – there is only the need to curate a master report rather than manually pull in data from multiple sources. “For everything that we do, whether someone’s asking me, ‘how many applicants have you received in a period of time?’, or ‘who are in the military?’, I can quickly and easily pull the master report and curate it. That’s an extremely powerful tool.”
Reduction in hours spent supporting applicants
Paakkonen states, “We used to drown in applicant requests. We’d probably get 100 inquiries a month, which were almost always over email. Now with the new portal, their application status is always available to them in real-time.” This means that when situations arise requiring additional efforts from the administrative team, they are more likely to have the bandwidth to handle those situations, whereas in the past they had to bring in temp support.
Reduced costs, including a reduction in software licensing of 30%
Thanks to Thentia Cloud’s self-service capabilities, the team has seen postage costs plummet with the digitization. No longer do they have to print and mail information related to things like primary source verification of a licensee.
However, even more notably the system costs alone are 30% less expensive than the failed system. Paakkonen shares, “The contrast is so stark in my mind. We were throwing money into a hole for extremely limited functionality. Now, for a smaller investment, we’re getting everything that we need.”
Reduced manual work on renewals by 10-15%
Time spent processing the monthly influx of renewal applications has reduced, allowing staff members to devote more time to keeping up with the growth of the behavior analyst profession and other strategic projects. Paakkonen adds that once the board adds new application processing to Thentia Cloud, the percentage of time saved on applications as a total will be significantly greater.
In a short time ABPE will be moving the processing of new license applications on Thentia Cloud, thereby bringing their entire application process over to a single system. With that fully under control, ABPE also looks forward to leveraging their extra budget appropriation towards a data migration project that will allow them to bring in historical data from external sources. Old paper files and applications were digitized as PDF files, and will soon be migrated over to Thentia Cloud as readable data, completing and consolidating many years of work in the efforts towards digitization.
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