Top Regulatory Modernization Challenges
December 01, 2020 by
Regulatory boards have lots to juggle. Eventually, however, either due to changing workloads, outdated systems, new legislation, or the radically changed landscape caused by COVID-19, regulatory boards will need to add a modernization project to their list of tasks. Here are a few of the top challenges regulatory boards must overcome when embarking on modernization, and how to tackle them.
Persuading Reluctant Stakeholders
With so many competing priorities, it is often hard for boards to dedicate the time, attention, and resources required to tackle a technology modernization project. Even when staff members are ready for the modernization, it can be hard to persuade the board that the time is right.
One of the most compelling arguments to persuade a reticent board is to point out how much information is collected at various agencies that doesn’t turn into usable data. The effort to collect and store information is wasted if it doesn’t help the board or agency make decisions that support its mandate. Decision-makers should be reminded that outdated systems that do not support transparency and easy reporting lead to:
- An incomplete understanding of what is happening in workforce
- Inaccurate conclusions drawn from limited analysis
- The inability to use information to direct policy
On the flip-side, be prepared to cite examples to demonstrate how data can inform decisions. For example, in Virginia, the Department of Health Professions (DHP) has been working to standardize and leverage actionable data for more than 40 years. Through ongoing analyses of disciplinary statistics, they have developed a Sanction Reference Point (SRP) system for each regulatory board which fosters more objective and consistent disciplinary actions. Virginia also surveys renewing licensees and publishes profession reports containing characteristics of and relevant trends for the profession. (Regulatory board-specific SRP manuals are available online. This is a sample for Long-Term Care Administrators https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/nha/guidelines/95-3.pdf. The profession reports from the Virginia Healthcare Workforce Data Center are in the public domain.) This kind of large-scale data collection and analysis is much easier with modernized technology, which enables you to collect and analyze sufficient data to draw accurate conclusions.
Preparing Your People
Once you have buy-in from leadership, it is time to start planning for the regulatory modernization project. Even minor technology upgrades can have significant impact on the way people work. And if you decide to embark on a full transformation project, which includes changing long-established workflows and processes, it can even change the skills you need to have among your staff. To make sure your project is successful, consider if you have the following attributes among the stakeholders:
- Leadership with the vision, the political will, or the mandate to push the changes through
- Sufficient understanding of both your policy needs and data architecture to ensure that the systems you implement will fulfill your needs
- Infrastructure that will support your new implementation
- Vendors who understand the regulatory market, to ensure that what they provide aligns with your requirements
- Data scientists who will be able to properly analyze and report on the data you have available
- A collective desire to use data to drive decisions
Your plans should include a framework for training and communicating with team members to keep them involved in the modernization process.
Budgeting for Modernization in Light of COVID-19
Securing the resources for a regulatory modernization project is often a major hurdle because of the dollar amounts involved. The upheaval to normal operations caused by the COVID-19 crisis adds to the typical obstacles to consider when trying to plan — but in some cases, it may help the project get underway. For example, some states are seeing and taking advantage of spending drops associated with the cancellation of board meetings and other regulatory activities in light of the pandemic. Funds typically used for meetings are being diverted to their modernization efforts.
Another way to cover the costs of a regulatory modernization project is to consider implementing a solution with a transaction-based model. This means that the technology vendor offers an alternative pricing option to recover some or all of the project costs via transaction fees. In this scenario, a transaction fee can be added to any application fee so the system cost is passed to your license holders. You can spread the transactions over a multi-year period to make the fees as low as possible. In a transaction-based model, the “transactions” are based on measurable and quantifiable items within the system. Usually these items are transactions that may normally incur a fee (initial applications, renewals, exam requests, etc.).
The benefits of the transaction-based funding are:
- No upfront costs, which means boards can move forward without having to re-prioritize funding.
- Boards can decide whether to absorb the costs, push the costs to license holders, or split the costs.
- Boards can include an upfront lump sum payment (initial approved budget allocation or utilization of end-of-year funding) to offset the transaction costs in future years and reduce the transactional cost.
Whether you go with a transaction fee model or some other way to cover the cost of your modernization, you should do a thorough cost-benefit analysis. Regulatory modernization can offer, among other things, faster processing times, shorter open-case timelines, expanded mobility services, the ability to service the agency workforce in the field, remote workforce support, improved operational efficiency, workforce planning, and actionable document management. Automating and streamlining workflows allows staff to focus on higher-order work instead of data entry or endless emails.
Consider the savings you can realize if you improve your processing efficiency, and if your workflows are more consistent. Automated workflows allow you to monitor application processing throughout all stages of review, identify bottlenecks in the application process, and decrease application processing times. You can establish key performance indicators that will allow management to adjust staff focus to handle peak periods. Rules-based capabilities will allow immediate incorporation of new or changed regulations simply through configuration, saving the time and expense for custom coding of your system. And, of course, automated and improved data handling and reporting will help you identify trends and enable you to use data more effectively for decision-making.
The Benefits of Perseverance
If you can overcome the challenges, there are many benefits to undergoing a regulatory modernization project to help you collect, analyze, and use data more effectively. From more efficient operations to overall cost savings, regulatory boards and agencies who have modernized technology will be better positioned to execute their mandate and serve their communities.