How the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers elevated decision-making capabilities and streamlined licensing with Thentia Cloud
No. of LICENSEES: +7,500
The Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers sought to transform their licensing system when they realized the risks and inefficiencies associated with their legacy, custom-built system. Since implementing Thentia Cloud, they’ve made drastic improvements to licensing procedures that ultimately has allowed them to improve their level of focus on ensuring professional excellence and compliance of Licensed Social Workers in the state.
The mission of the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers (BLSW) is to protect the citizens of Oregon through the regulation of social workers. The board must ensure that social workers have the education and experience required and have passed background checks. The licensing process is designed to verify data points across each of those areas before a recommendation is made to the board to approve a licensee.
The board currently oversees approximately 7,500 licensees across four different categories. The smallest category is the Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW), of which there are under 50 licensees, then there is the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), represented by about 350-400 licensees, followed by the Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA), which is for a person working towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). The board has about 1,500 CSWAs and about 5,500-6,000 LCSWs. Clinical licenses are required by statute in Oregon whereas the LBSW and LMSW are optional because they are non-clinical.
BLSW’s board is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, which bears tremendous importance since BLSW is required to coordinate with the Governor’s office on all appointments, which then must go through a legislative committee and be approved and ultimately voted on by the legislature.
Allowing for online applications and renewals.
reduction in checks mailed in relating to licensing applications.
reduction of applications that need to be reviewed by the Compliance team.
In 2017, BLSW reached a point where the team knew they needed to find a new solution for licensing. The existing system was one that had been custom built by a software developer and grown organically over time as the needs of the board evolved. As a result, the system was fragile and highly dependent upon the support of the developer who had built it.
“Our previous program relied heavily on the programmer being available to repair or make changes, and that was becoming harder as the time went by,” explains BLSW Licensing Specialist Wende Thatcher, who worked closely with the software. “Our system needed to be changed and brought up to current times.”
The team became concerned that the system could fail at any time, in which case they would be left with paper records. At this point, they began the search for an alternative solution. Key criteria for the new solution included:
With these requirements in mind, the board sought a vendor capable of supporting their transition to a digital-first licensing system and quickly discovered Thentia Cloud through discussions with other agencies. Within a matter of months, BLSW was able to go live with a new licensing solution that would radically transform its licensing processing approach and ultimately eliminate its reliance on paper forms.
Thentia Cloud provided BLSW with a single, centralized system for managing new and renewal applications, continuing education requirements, payment management and other back-end administrative functions. It also provides a licensee portal so that individuals can self-manage their applications.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OREGON BOARD OF LICENSED SOCIAL WORKERS
Since implementing Thentia Cloud, BLSW has been able to elevate their level of focus and prioritize the higher-value regulatory work required by the board. The mass move to a cloud-based system transformed certain operational processes around licensing, compliance and continuing education.
An approximately 90% reduction in paper forms received
The ability to offer online applications and renewals as well as online record maintenance has meant that the agency has gone from receiving several hundred forms each month to only about a dozen or two for verification, transcripts etc.
Nearly 100% reduction in check payments
For the young demographic BLSW typically serves when processing new applications, mailing in a payment by check felt like a burdensome and antiquated process. For the team receiving payments, checks also created unnecessary work. With Thentia Cloud, BLSW no longer has hundreds of checks mailed in each month.
Improved decision-making capabilities
The licensing team at BLSW has three members, with one staff member focused on intake of applications. Since the automation of the licensing process, the staff are now able to focus on higher level functions. Randy Harnisch, Executive Director of BLSW, reports, “We’ve been able to achieve a higher level of decision making that I think has resulted in us doing a much better and more thorough job … I wasn’t expecting to see the effect on the quality of the decision making and we’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that’s been the case.”
Approximately 75% reduction of applications that need to be reviewed by Compliance
Due to the automation of what was previously manual work, more of the background checks are now able to be handled upstream. Previously, anything that came up in a background check would immediately be moved to the compliance team for review before making a decision on the applicant, but now those decisions can be made at the point of intake, and oftentimes, that team member receiving the application can determine whether or not to process it. “The system holds not only the licensee members accountable for following the rules, policies and procedures, but also holds us accountable to be consistent with decisions,” Thatcher explains.
Improvements to management of Continuing Education
With the previous system, the team had to make renewal decisions based on affirmations from the applicant on completion of continuing education courses. With Thentia Cloud, the system will not let applicants proceed unless they have uploaded all of their certificates. The new audit system feature that was more recently put in place has also enabled them to revamp their entire Continuing Education process so that they can better ensure the courses being taken are appropriate. Harnisch reports, “Thentia Cloud has allowed us to have a much better sense that people are actually doing their required courses and meeting the statutory and administrative requirement for Continuing Education. So I think we’re doing a much better job.”
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