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DSS making headway with switch to paperless management

Department of Social Services Director Susan McCracken says the conversion to paperless management is costing nearly $2 million, but will eventually result in substantial savings and efficiency.

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer
In the year since the Lincoln County Department of Social Services began implementing its new paperless case management and imaging system, there has been much headway made in improving the department’s efficiency.
The implementation process, broken into phases that will end up taking place over a four-year period, began in January 2011 after county commissioners signed off on a vendor for the imaging system, Advanced Imaging Systems, selected by the DSS. Northwoods Consulting Partners had earlier been selected to implement the case management system.
According to previous Times-News reports, the total cost of the project will exceed $1.7 million, with the county spending roughly $965,000. But, in the long run, Susan McCracken, director of the DSS, believes this expenditure will save the county money through increased productivity in staff and reduced spending on supplies such as paper and ink cartridges.
Though McCracken is quick to admit that the project is “costly,” she noted that breaking it up into phases will help to alleviate that fact a bit.
“The first phase is well on its way, and we’re starting on the second,” McCracken told the Times-News Wednesday.
Phase one of the implementation of the new system involved turning the department’s Food and Nutrition Services case files into electronic images. The Medicaid, Work First and “Fraud” (or Program Integrity) units have also received this upgrade as part of phase two, said McCracken.
“It will be two more years before it’s completely implemented,” she added.
Nonetheless, there have already been tangible results.
DSS staff have put together a performance update for fiscal year 2012 on the accomplishments and outcomes from the implementation process so far.
Following the completion of phase one, for instance, the DSS has experienced a 33 percent decline in paper usage and a 50 percent reduction in the number of printer cartridges used in the Food and Nutrition Services unit. Additionally, the DSS has saved an estimated $20,000 on office supplies.
The time needed to complete various tasks, such as processing applications, has also been significantly reduced for staff members, who first had to undergo training to adjust to the technology. In the past year, the Food and Nutrition Services unit has been able to handle 16 percent more cases.
Overall, the project is enabling the DSS to save on cost, time and productivity — not to mention shelving space. Well over 1,000 feet of storage space has been emptied, including hallway storage, file cabinets and file-room shelving.
McCracken pointed out that the paperless system not only allows information to be pulled up quickly and easily by anyone in the agency, but it also provides added security by backing up files in the case of an emergency.

Image courtesy of File Photo

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