Portal-building a tall task

The Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta is in the process of rolling out a single point e-business solution to speed up the process for submitting workplace injury claims, amongst other things.

The portal will allow doctors and other medical practitioners to fill out accident reports online, thus avoiding the need to hand write reports and subsequently fax them in.

Most often, it is a visit to a doctor that initiates a claims process, said David Booth, director information management with the WCB in Edmonton. By eliminating the paper trail and the need to re-enter data into the WCB system, the claims process can be sped up, he added. First cheques that might have potentially taken 10 days could now arrive within a week.

“Three days doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is if you are waiting for the cheque,” Booth said. “You can appreciate that for some folks that can be a mortgage payment, that could be groceries.”

But in order for the WCB solution to work it needed a single sign-on solution so that users were not continually re-entering user names and passwords to access different applications. “That [would be] incredibly poor customer service,” Booth said.

The WCB looked at several solutions and eventually decided to go with OpenNetwork’s DirectorySmart identity management system. Two factors tipped the scale in OpenNetwork’s favour. Booth and his team liked the DirectorySmart functionality and were impressed with its tie-in to the .Net solution WCB was pursuing.

“When we looked at both of those things, and of course cost, there was no question in our mind that Open Network presented the best solution,” Booth said.

Since Alberta has around 100,000 employers of varying sizes, Booth and his team needed an identity access management solution that could be moulded to different levels of use.

Since WCB is not staffed to manage major accounts (a large company might have 30 to 50 employees who need to access the site regularly), it needed to be able to pass on account management to users when needed. Using DirectorySmart, a large employer can manage its own user passwords and access levels through a single corporate account. But this portion of the solution did take some finagling.

“We had to work pretty hard to get that to work right,” Booth admitted.

The project is now in pilot with about 150 users (from employers to doctors), and will roll out in April for the rest of the provincial workforce and employers. Booth said that prior to the portal, most reports were faxed in and re-scanned or re-keyed into the system. Though the majority of the province’s smaller employers may not use the system, he still envisions more than 1,000 corporate users.

Word is spreading about the WCB site and Booth said other provinces have shown interest in duplicating the initiative.

Booth was also very pleased that DirectorySmart worked well with all of WCB’s existing applications and those being built for the portal. “If we had to have different software, or different front ends, well then we have just completely defeated the purpose,” he said.

The project’s total cost is a little over $1 million, which includes everything from DirectorySmart and the applications running in the portal to Web design. It has taken about 18 months to roll out.